California Baptist 0
AZUSA, Calif. -- California Baptist, undefeated and enjoying its highest ranking ever at No. 9 in the NAIA, threw everything it had at Azusa Pacific Wednesday night looking for an ounce of respect.
The NAIA’s top-ranked Cougars absorbed the blows, stood tall and didn’t give an inch to the Lancers, and in the end, the Cougars not only left with a 2-0 win but also as one of just 2 unbeaten teams remaining in the NAIA.
Azusa Pacific extended its win streak to 15 straight over the Lancers, who are quickly making a rise towards the top of the NAIA. Coming into the night, the Cougars and the Lancers joined William Jewell (Mo.) as the only unbeaten teams in the NAIA.
“I thought this was our best effort of the year,” said Azusa Pacific’s all-time winningest head coach Jason Surrell. “It wasn't great from a tactical standpoint, but this is the effort that it’s going to take to be on top. It was national tournament intensity out there tonight.”
Wanting to set the tone from the get-go and earn national respect, the Lancers came out fired up and were primed for an upset, catching the Cougars on their heels. And although it was the 2 goals that gave the Cougars the win, it was tactical change made midway through the first half that changed the complexion of the game.
Shannon Coe, who started the game at sweeper before moving to the midfield to specifically mark the Lancers’ 3-time All-GSAC Amy Harris, not only limited Harris’ effectiveness, but as the Cougars began to assert control, she also gave the Cougars a lead.
“We made a tactical change midway through the first half that made the difference,” said Surrell. “We moved (Stephanie) Bays from the front to the back, and she settled things down in the back. We maybe gave up a little on the offensive end, but Shannon had a great game on Harris. She’s a dangerous player, and Shannon was very effective on her tonight.”
After absorbing a pair of early attacks by California Baptist, the Cougars began to get their footing and momentum. In the 32nd minute, Megan Cardin sent a corner kick to the box that Coe redirected off a Lancer defender and into the net for a 1-0 Cougar lead that seemingly deflated the Lancers.
On a nearly identical play in the second half, Jourdan Whistler collected a rebound off a corner kick and tucked away an insurance tally in the 60th minute for a 2-0 Cougar lead.
The rest was left up to the Cougar defense and GK Melissa Strother, who collected 4 saves in one of her best efforts of the season to get her sixth shutout of the season.
“Two weeks ago, we probably don’t win this game,” said Surrell. “We had a lot of things that we were sorting out. The effort and attitude wasn’t there. That Concordia game a couple of weeks ago, though, showed us where we needed to be, and tonight we were at the top of our game and we were where we needed to be.”
Tonight’s match pitted 2 of the top defending teams in the NAIA, but in the end, the Cougar defense got the better of the Lancers, posting their ninth shutout in 12 games and third win over a ranked opponent. The Cougar defense has allowed just 3 goals through the first 12 matches.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 9-0-3 overall, 4-0-1 GSAC. California Baptist suffers its first loss and drops to 11-1-0 overall, 4-1-0.