Men's soccer defeated by Azusa Pacfic
Everything was familiar at the Cougar Soccer Complex in Azusa on Saturday night. Biola University and Azusa Pacific University’s men’s soccer teams met for the 53rd time in more than 40 years. The bleachers were at capacity, unable to hold the record-setting 2,600 who attended. Chants echoed toward the field, fueling their respective teams to a hopeful victory. The eventual score was a 2-1 Azusa win, producing the ninth one-goal game in the teams’ last 11 meetings.
This has been the scene, more or less, both in Azusa and at Biola, since 1973 when the two teams first met. The rivalry heightened 20 years later in 1993 when the Eagles joined the Cougars in the Golden State Athletic Conference, igniting two decades of fierce sports competition between the two Christian universities.
But one thing lingered in the air, a difference that is sure to change the way in which these two schools compete from here on out. Azusa Pacific’s departure from the NAIA before this year is sure to reduce the number of matchups with Biola over the coming years.
Rivalry remains despite APU move out of conference
The intensity on the field, however, remained the same for both players and coaches when playing a bitter rival like Azusa.
“This may be the pinnacle of the emotional arousal for us in this rivalry,” head coach Bryan Kuderman said.
Azusa’s last second heroics in 2011 still linger in Kuderman’s mind as the Cougars prevailed in the 98th minute, winning 2-1.
“We’re still so upset from last year,” Kuderman said.
Even though Azusa moved to Division II, the players are still going into the game with a sense of extra tension.
“We still have that nice friendly rivalry,” goalscorer Tony Montalvo said. “We were excited to play them.”
The senior midfielder put the Eagles on the board first in the 14th minute, serving as a spark plug for the Biola offense.
“That [goal] definitely gave us the momentum and gave us the confidence to keep pushing forward,” Montalvo said. “We were all pretty stoked on it.”
Biola loss of lead early on results in shut out during second half
Despite the early strike, Biola allowed two consecutive goals in the following 27 minutes to lose the lead and were held scoreless in the second half.
Simple mistakes led to Azusa’s two goals and ultimately the team’s 16th loss at Azusa in 26 tries, according to Kuderman.
“The number one principle is to make sure you’re maintaining pressure on the ball and their first goal came simply because we didn’t step,” Kuderman said. “It’s a very simple defensive tactic that they should know at this age and at this level of play. ... We had the first goal. We should have won this game. Bottom line.”
Azusa junior midfielder Michael Sahagian notched the equalizer in the 35th minute while sophomore forward Carlos Garcia-Partida broke the tie in the 41st minute off a cross from senior mid Kevin Yang.
Eagles encouraged by new strategy system and acknowledge mistakes
“We lost focus for one second and that’s where Azusa came in and scored on us,” Montalvo said.
Kuderman calls himself “hypercritical of mistakes,” but still recognizes the positives stemming from Saturday’s loss.
“Our goal came from exactly what we talked about in training,” he said. “Getting a defense to backpedal and winning off their defense, and we almost had a second [goal] from it.”
Trying a new system for the first time was encouraging for the 11-year coach, a style that Kuderman says is contrary to one that they have played for the last 10 years.
“Against a very good opponent, it worked,” Kuderman said.
Freshman goalkeeper Joshua Crichton made his debut in net for the Eagles, stopping three shots. The Mission Viejo native is one of eight freshmen that compose the 22-man squad.
Azusa holds a 31-17-5 advantage in the all-time series.