The Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team has had a season dominated by one-goal differences. Twelve of the team’s 13 contests have been determined by a single score, and 10 of them have been Cougar wins.
“We have really good players this year, and we have been able to connect a lot,” junior forward Keyran Kelly said. “We’ve been able to use this when it comes down to really close games – to connect and be able to score and win the game.”
The Cougars came away with a 2-1 win on Sept. 13, knocking off then-ranked No. 2 Simon Fraser. In this game, junior forward Carlos Garcia-Partida got the return feed through a back heel pass and deposited the ball in the net.
“We’ve been able to push through at the end, and at the end, we have to work harder and finish strong. We have to be ready every time,” Garcia-Partida said. “We have to treat each game as its own and not get ahead of ourselves.”
Garcia-Partida and Kelly lead the conference in game-winning goals. Each have scored three this season.
Other one-goal wins have come against top-conference opponents BYU-Hawaii and Notre Dame de Namur.
“We play a lot of really good teams in the conference, and our out-of-conference schedule is made of all quality teams,” head coach Dave Blomquist said. “We want that type of competition to keep pushing ourselves to be better.”
Three of the team’s one-goal wins have come in overtime play, against UC San Deigo, Dixie State and California Baptist. The Cougars won 1-0 against then-regionally ranked UC San Diego on Sept. 20, when Keenan Armbrust scored the golden goal in the 102nd minute.
“Any victory is a good one, but we are always looking for that second or third goal to have that cushion against opposing teams,” Blomquist said. “My coaching philosophy is not to just win by one goal. We have a very creative team, so we like to push everyone to their limits.”
When the team traveled to Hawaii Hilo, the game’s only goal came in the 73rd minute when Kelly got his first score of the season, giving the Cougars the 1-0 victory. The team then had two more victories in Hawaii against Chaminade and BYU-Hawaii, each with a final score of 3-2. Garcia-Partida scored twice against Chaminade, including the game-winner.
The Cougars took another one-goal win on Oct. 16 at home against Holy Names in which the Hawks knotted the Cougars after APU’s initial 3-0 lead before Kelly scored the game-winning goal in the 82nd minute.
“After some of the goals, Coach was happy, but after other games with the one-goal winning score, Coach was still not happy because we should’ve won with a higher score,” Kelly said. “In the locker room, we are always happy either way.”
The team is on a current seven-game, one-goal victory streak and will host Academy of Art at home on Thursday.