Azusa Pacific 4
McKendree (Ill.) 0
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- It’s been an up-and-down season for junior forward Erin Arbizu. Battling through nagging injuries for most of the season, the All-American had just 4 goals coming into tonight’s game, a far cry from last year’s total of 19.
However, Arbizu returned to her All-American form tonight as she scored her first hat-trick of the season to lead third-seed Azusa Pacific to a 4-0 win over McKendree (Ill.) in the opening round of the 2003 NAIA Women’s Soccer National Tournament in Santa Barbara.
The win moves the Cougars into Saturday’s quarterfinals where they will face either sixth-seed William Jewell (Mo.) or eleventh-seed Simon Fraser (B.C.) at 5 p.m.
The Cougars also move one game closer to a possible sixth straight semifinal berth.
Azusa Pacific scored early and often, getting 3 goals in an 8-minute span less than 30 minutes into the game to carry a 3-0 lead into the locker room.
“We, by far, had our best week of practice last week,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Jason Surrell. “It showed tonight in our intensity and fluidness of our play. The balls that were sent out of the back were on tonight, and the distribution from our defenders was great. Our center mids played the best they have all year, and our forwards did a great job finishing. Top to bottom everyone was on tonight.”
The Cougars wasted no time, dominating from the outset and out-shooting the Bearcats, 20-5, on the night. In the 18th minute, Britany Nauchtrieb collected a ball in the midfield and fed a streaking Stephanie Weber down the right side. Weber beat her defender and sent a sliding ball to the box where Shannon Coe found the back of the net for her team-leading sixth goal of the season.
Just 2 minutes later, Coe found herself on the other end of a score when she fed Arbizu in the box, who calmly tucked the ball into top left corner for a 2-0 Cougar lead.
Arbizu scored twice more in the 26th minute off another assist by Coe and then again in the 71st minute on an assist from Stephanie Lemburg to complete her hat-trick, nearly doubling her season total.
Cougar GK Melissa Strother needed to make just 1 save to collect her seventh shutout of the season.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 13-3-3. McKendree’s season comes to a close at 13-7-2.