MONDAY (SEPT. 29), COUGAR STADIUM, 7 P.M.
AT FRESNO PACIFIC
WEDNESDAY (OCT. 1), FRESNO, CALIF., STEINERT FIELD, 7 P.M.
AZUSA PACIFIC – 3-0-1
CONCORDIA – 3-4-1
FRESNO PACIFIC – 4-4-1
ON TAP: Its quest for a fourth straight GSAC championship gets underway this week as Azusa Pacific hosts Concordia tonight and in both team’s GSAC opener and then travels to Fresno Pacific Wednesday for the Sunbirds’ first-ever women’s soccer game under the lights. Both games are slated to kick off at 7 p.m.
VS. CONCORDIA: Azusa Pacific is a perfect 8-0 all-time against Concordia, winning 4 times apiece in Azusa and Irvine. The Cougars have outscored the Eagles, 41-3, including a 7-0 combined tally in the past 2 meetings. The Eagles come in at 3-4-1 overall but have won 3 of their past 4. The Cougars, currently 3-0-1 and ranked No. 2 in the NAIA, are looking to push their unbeaten streak to 5 straight.
VS. FRESNO PACIFIC: Azusa Pacific is 2-0 all-time against Fresno Pacific, which is just in its third year as an intercollegiate program. The Cougars have won both meetings by a combined 17-1, including an 11-0 verdict in Fresno in 2001.
FOR STARTERS: Azusa Pacific is 9-1 all-time in GSAC openers, winning each of the past 6 conference openers. In each of their past 3 GSAC championship seasons, the Cougars have won their respective conference openers by a combined 11-2 score. Ironically, the only time Concordia and Azusa Pacific squared off to open a GSAC campaign was in the Cougars’ 1998 NAIA national championship season when Azusa Pacific won 5-0 in Irvine. The Cougars are 6-0 in GSAC openers in Azusa.
POLL HOPPING: Azusa Pacific is currently the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked team, trailing only Westmont. A new NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll will be released tomorrow, and the Cougars should jump up to the No. 1 spot after Notre Dame de Namur’s stunning upset of Westmont last Tuesday in Santa Barbara. The Cougars have appeared in 58 consecutive rankings dating back to Sept. 19, 1997 and were last ranked No. 1 on Oct. 30, 2001.
GSAC’S BEST: The 3-time defending GSAC champion, Azusa Pacific is gunning for its fourth straight conference crown, something that hasn’t been done since 1997. Playing the NAIA’s toughest women’s soccer conference, the Cougars have posted a 25-1-1 conference mark during their current run. To put things in perspective on how tough the GSAC has become over the past 5 years, 4 of the past 5 NAIA national champions are from the GSAC, and the GSAC is currently the only conference in the NAIA with 3 teams (Westmont, APU and Cal Baptist) in the top 10 and another (Point Loma) in the top 20.
SURGING SURRELL: With a pair of wins this week, Azusa Pacific head coach Jason Surrell will tie former head coach Christian Johnson (1997-99) as the Cougars’ all-time winningest coach with 57 wins. In his fourth year, Surrell has posted a 55-8-5 (.846) mark and collected 3 GSAC Coach of the Year honors along the way while leading the Cougars to 3 straight GSAC championships and 3 straight NAIA Final Four appearances.
SHUTOUT STREAK: Azusa Pacific ran its shutout streak to 4 straight games and 392 minutes with its 1-0 double-overtime win over Alliant International Sept. 13. With that win, the Cougars posted their longest such streak since recording 8 shutouts midway through the 2001 season. Azusa Pacific has never opened a season with more than 2 straight shutouts, accomplishing that feat 3 times (1993, 97 and 99). The current school record is 15 straight set during the Cougars’ 1998 national championship season.
STROTHER SMOTHERS: Already Azusa Pacific all-time leader with 32 career shutouts, senior GK Melissa Strother has shaken off a preseason injury and bounced back with a fury returning to form as one of the greatest keepers in school and NAIA history. In her only 2 matches this year, Strother collected the 31st and 32nd shutouts of her career against Cal State L.A. (3-0) and Alliant International (1-0). In 192 minutes of action, Strother has needed to make just 1 save. She needs just 2 more shutouts to crack the top 5 of the NAIA’s career list, and her 0.52 career GAA currently ranks 2nd all-time in the NAIA.