FRESNO, Calif.-- It wasn’t what they set out to do at the NAIA National Invitational, but the Cougars ended their season on a high-note, drubbing Vanguard 14-3 after falling in their first three matches of the weekend to take fourth place in the tournament. Azusa Pacific lost the day’s opening contest to the eventual champions, California Baptist, 15-5, but bounced back for one of its biggest victories this year.
10 players scored in the win, with Jennifer Young posting her first hat trick of the season to pace the team. Ashley Shoman finished with a game-high four assists, while Daniella Khatchetourian tallied three assists and scored twice.
In the victory the Cougars (9-27) jumped out to an 8-0 lead through seven minutes of play. Jennifer Horchler, Courtney Folsom, Lora Donaldson, Allison Gonzales, Taylor Whitney, and Young all found the back of the net in the opening quarter, while Brooke Sovick held the Lions scoreless until a buzzer-beating goal put Vanguard on the board.
In the second quarter the Cougars opened with a goal from Gabrielle Kredel before the Lions responded with their second score of the match to make it 9-2 with 2:10 to go in the half. Young then notched her second goal of the game to give Azusa Pacific a 10-2 edge at the break.
Khatchetourian opened the third quarter with a score, with Kaylee Pettengill and Donaldson following suit to put the Cougars ahead 13-2. After Vanguard tabbed its third goal of the match Khatchetourian put the final touches on the victory with her second goal of the contest.
Jessica Armagost, who replaced Sovick midway through, tallied six saves and gave up just one goal, while Horchler continued to be a terror on the defensive end, finishing with four steals. Azusa Pacific converted one of two 6-on-5 opportunities, and held the Lions to one of three in power play situations. The victory marked the Cougars’ second win over Vanguard this season.
In the day’s opening match Azusa Pacific squared off with perennial power No. 17 California Baptist. The Lancers opened the game on a 6-0 run, holding the Cougars scoreless until Kredel broke through in the third minute of the second quarter. Following the goal California Baptist rattled off four consecutive goals over a seven minute span to take a commanding 10-1 lead and put the game out of reach.
Folsom, Whitney, Horchler, and Kredel would each find the back of the net once more in the loss before the Lancers came away with a 15-5 win to seal their second straight NAIA Invite crown. Horchler finished with a team-high two assists and two steals, while Megan Minekime, drew three ejections.
After going 1-3 at the Invite head coach Julie Snodgrass ends with a 9-27 clip in her first year at the helm for the Cougars. The California Baptist graduate, however, remains optimistic about the direction the program is headed in.
“It was definitely a learning experience and a good experience. It was nice to end with a win and good to have everyone coming back. I’m looking forward to next year for sure because we return almost everyone and have four recruits coming in. [Not many] teams can say that,” said Snodgrass.
The Cougars return their top four scorers next year, including Horchler who broke the Azusa Pacific single-season steals record with 75 this year, a mark that ranks second in the nation (NCAA and NAIA). Azusa Pacific also returns its high-scoring freshman duo of Whitney and Folsom, who combined for over 90 goals this season, and its main sprinter and utility player Donaldson.