Azusa Pacific 2
AZUSA, Calif. -- There are many soccer naysayers that say there is no drama is soccer. And for many, a 2-2 tie isn’t worth it. But for those in attendance at Monday night’s GSAC-opening Azusa Pacific-Concordia, the match was anything but boring.
Azusa Pacific, the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked team, erased a 2-goal deficit with 15 minutes to play, scoring the game-tying goal with just 27 seconds left and escaping with a 2-2 tie against unranked Concordia.
The tie still keeps the Eagles winless in 9 tries against the Cougars and moves the Cougars’ unbeaten streak to 5 straight this season.
“In the scheme of things, I’m a little disappointed to get a tie,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Jason Surrell, who needs just 2 more wins to become Azusa Pacific’s all-time winningest coach. “They’re a good team. The 2 week layoff hurt us, but at this point to get a tie after being down 2-0 late in the game, we showed some heart to come back from that deficit.”
Concordia did something no other team has done this year—score against Azusa Pacific—and the Eagles did it twice.
After a scoreless first half, Nikki Fournier received a cross from Kelli Chase, who carried the ball down the right side before sending her service. An unmarked Fournier headed the ball past a diving Melissa Strother and into the net for a 1-0 Concordia lead in the 56th minute.
Nineteen minutes later, the Eagles continued the pressure. Amy Ross collected a loose ball in the box. With her back to the goal, Ross turned to her right and past a Cougar defender, firing a shot that deflected off another Cougar defender and into the net giving the Eagles a seemingly insurmountable 2-goal advantage.
That’s when the drama began to unfold.
Concordia began to sit back and defend its 2-goal lead, bringing all but one player back to its defensive third of the field. That move opened up space for the Cougars, who were able to capitalize in the 79th minute.
With an acrobatic somersault, Shannon Coe launched a throw-in into the box where Heidi Hofmann deflected it into the net for her second goal of the season to cut the deficit in half and bring life to the Cougars.
“That was a set play that we work on,” said Surrell. “She (Shannon) tries to hit a couple of people with that throw and then hope it goes in, and it did.”
The Cougars, who were without the services of All-American forward Erin Arbizu, who was out nursing an injury, kept up the pressure generating several chances but none were able to find the net until the final minute.
All-GSAC Stephanie Bays, who moved from her regular defensive spot to the front after the second Eagle goal, cleaned up a loose ball in the box and in dramatic fashion blasted it into the corner of the net to tie the game at 2-2 with 27 seconds left and force overtime.
“We moved (Stephanie) up to the front because we weren’t creating enough up top,” said Surrell. “She’s got a great shot and when given the opportunity she usually does well with it, and we saw that tonight.”
Just 4 shots were taken in overtime, 3 of them by Azusa Pacific. However, the lone Eagle shot nearly won the game. With just 43 seconds left in the second overtime, Ross, who was a thorn in the Cougars’ side the entire night, drilled a ball from 20 yards out that blasted off the crossbar. The Cougar defense was able to clear the ball and settle for the tie.
Azusa Pacific is now 3-0-2, 0-0-1 GSAC, and the Cougars are expected to take over the NAIA’s No. 1 spot in tomorrow’s Coaches’ Top 25 poll after Westmont’s stunning upset to Notre Dame de Namur last week. Concordia, which won 3 of its last 4 coming into tonight, moves to 3-4-2 overall, 0-0-1 GSAC.