Day 16 (Aug. 16): Surrell, Soccer, and Senioritis
It’s going to be different, but they’re hoping the results are the same. This year the Azusa Pacific women’s soccer program enters the world of the PacWest after 19 years in the Golden State Athletic Conference. In that span the Cougars won 10 GSAC titles, with head coach Jason Surrell guiding them to nine championships in the last 12 seasons.
Last year Surrell made soccer history, becoming the fastest NAIA coach to reach the 200-win mark and leaving the NAIA as the winningest coach in its history (.858 winning percentage; min 10 years). Needless to say he is the perfect person to have at the helm during the transition from the NAIA into NCAA Div. II.
But that’s not the only thing the Cougars have going for them. The team, which made its third straight NAIA semifinal appearance, and fifth in the last six years, returns 20 players and has more seniors than the local bingo club; 11 to be exact. The 11 seniors, which are the most for any team in program history, offer a changeup from the past two years where there were just a combined five seniors.
“I think from an experience standpoint it’s definitely the right group to bring in and compete right away for a PacWest championship. They’ve achieved a lot. Not all of them are four year players for us, but they all bring a lot to the table with their experience,” said Surrell.
And while their experience is important, the 11 seniors’ resume shows that it’s also a very accomplished group. Four of the seniors have received some sort of NAIA all-American status over the last four years, and three were all-GSAC performers a year ago (Rachael Harding, Molly Lavin, and Markie Gleason).
Senior keeper Michelle Wieland currently sits at third on the school’s all-time shutouts list with 26, and has a shot to move into second place all-time as she’s just 10 off of the second place mark of 36, set by Melissa Strother (’03). Wieland also boasts a career 0.32 goals-against-average, the best in Cougar history (min. 30 decisions).
Fellow senior Natalie Sun ranks 15th in career goals (25) and 13th in career assists (20), and has a good shot at moving into the top-10 in both categories by the time her career is over. Three of the seniors have NCAA Div. I experience as Gleason and Lynsey Browne played in the Big West Conference for Long Beach State and UC Riverside respectively before becoming Cougars, while Shannon Righetti played her freshman year at San Jose State.
Add all that to the fact that the team returns 97 percent of its scoring from a year ago and its the perfect recipe to make an immediate splash at the next level. The Cougars’ first test is August 30th on the road against Cal State Dominguez Hills, just two days prior to the home opener under the lights against long-time rival Biola on Sept. 1.