OLATHE, Kan. -- The NAIA’s top-ranked and tournament top seed Azusa Pacific will open its ninth straight appearance at the NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship against No. 16 seed Tiffin (Ohio), which defeated No. 17 seed Virginia Intermont in frigid, windy first-round action this afternoon.
The teams will meet at 12:30 p.m. (Central) in the second game of the day’s NAIA Tournament action. After the opening day of tournament action featured steady winds gusting up to 30 mph and high temperatures in the upper 40s, Thursday’s weather forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 50 degrees.
Tiffin overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit with 3 second-half goals to defeat Virginia Intermont. Senior forward Andrea Guthrie scored in the 50th minute and 76th minute to give the Dragons a 2-1 lead, and sophomore Emily Goldsberry added an insurance goal with 42 seconds remaining to give Tiffin the 3-1 win. Guthrie took 8 of Tiffin’s 17 shots, putting 6 on goal.
Tomorrow’s contest will be the second meeting between Azusa Pacific and Tiffin, setting up a rematch of the Cougars’ 4-0 win in the 2000 NAIA Tournament in Miami, Fla. Tiffin, unranked in the final NAIA Coaches Poll, clinched the Region IX automatic bid with its 1-0 upset of the national tournament’s No. 4 seed Houghton (N.Y.) in the NAIA Region IX/X Tournament last week. The Dragons have been to 2 NAIA Tournaments, dropping first-round contests to Azusa Pacific in 2000 and Westmont in 2002.
Tiffin, now 17-3-2 on the season, has now won 7 straight and has posted a school-record 14 shutouts. Senior forward Rachel Garofolo leads the Dragons with 19 goals and 7 assists, and she currently ranks second in career goals and points at Tiffin. Junior midfielder Niquita Amirkhanian, who assisted Tiffin’s first goal this afternoon, has 8 goals and 15 assists, and Guthrie now has 10 goals on the season. Senior goalkeeper Jen Rosselit owns Tiffin’s program single-season and career records for shutouts, setting the single-season record with her 14th shutout of the year in Tiffin’s 1-0 upset of Houghton.
The Dragons meet up with an 18-1 Azusa Pacific squad that won its final 11 games leading into the national tournament, outscoring opponents 38-4 during the streak. Freshman Theresa Broad leads the Cougar attack with a team-high 23 goals, the third-highest single-season goal total in program history. Broad needs 3 more goals to tie the Cougar single-season record of 26 goals set by Chrissy Sanford in 2001.
The Cougar defense registered 11 shutouts in 2006, including 6 cleansheets in the past 7 games. The senior tandem of 2006 GSAC Player of the Year Julie Fletcher and Mandy Heins anchors the central defense, while junior goalkeeper Jill Colfer enters the tournament with 32 career shutouts, just 4 shy of tying the Cougar career shutout record of 36 held by Melissa Strother (2000-03).
Senior forward Taryn Apo will share her thoughts and experiences from an athlete’s perspective as a participant in the 2006 NAIA Women’s Soccer National Championship in a daily blog on the APU Athletics website.
With a victory, Azusa Pacific would earn a day off before facing the winner of Friday’s contest between No. 8 seed Westmont and No. 9 seed Covenant (Ga.) in a 12:30 p.m. (Central) contest on Sat., Nov. 18. Live stats for all matches are available through the official NAIA Women’s Soccer Championship page.