The Azusa Pacific men’s soccer team opened its conference schedule with a 4-1 win against Point Loma Sept. 27 in its first year as full members of NCAA Division II.
“It’s been a great transition within the last few years; getting to know our new conference and new opponents and new travel schedule has been an adjustment,” head coach David Blomquist said. “The coaching staff and the players have adjusted very well within the last couple of years, so we feel ready this season. Every season, players are working hard on their own through strength and conditioning.”
Blomquist said the players are not the only ones who have been getting ready for this season.
“The coaches are working hard to strategize for the team that we have and for the opponents we know we will be facing,” he said.
The team defeated Simon Fraser Sept. 13, which was regionally ranked No. 3 before the start of the season.
“The Simon Fraser game was a tough battle, but all the games that we have faced them have always been fantastic games,” Blomquist said.
APU was picked to win the PacWest conference with a No.1 ranking by the preseason coaches’ poll.
“There’s a lot of good teams in the conference,” Blomquist said. “It’s in a lot of ways a good thing because there are other coaches and teams that know we are quality teams and expect you to be good. We have to be ready. We are working hard to be there when it is all said and done.”
On Sept. 27, Blomquist faced the Point Loma coach, Phil Wolf, who used to be his assistant coach when Blomquist played at Wheaton College.
“My last years playing soccer in college, coach Wolf was an assistant coach there for a long time, and then he was the head coach here (at APU). We have transitioned all over the country together,” Blomquist said. “We have a lot of respect and similar philosophies on the game. It’s a friendly competition, but I enjoy coaching against him.”
The APU coach has been looking at the big picture for the team.
“Throughout the entire season, it takes the entire team to have a successful team,” he said. “We develop every player to play their role for the team to be successful.”
The team has competed in conference for the past two seasons, finishing 2012 with a loss to California Baptist University in the NCCAA West Regionals and a record of 12-6-1.
The 2013 season ended with a tie for first place in the PacWest Conference standings.
The Cougars had a 15-1 record and finished the season losing to Fresno Pacific in the NCCAA West Regionals.
“Now that we are NCAA-eligible, we are shooting to make the NCAA tournament,” he said. “Hopefully, we continue to work hard and get there at the end. We have had a decent start, and we are heading in that direction.”
Midfielder and captain Jeremy Bishop has also been preparing for his last season as a player at APU. This is his fifth year with the team. Because of an injury in 2013, he was able to extend his senior year and get the chance to compete for potential NCAA postseason play. Bishop is the only senior on this year’s team.
“I’ve seen progress every year, but this year I feel a strong chemistry within the team,” Bishop said. “I think we are ready to go as a team with chemistry and skill. We do have a way that we build our program around, which is raising great players and leaders.”
The Cougars are now 4-1. Azusa Pacific is currently ranked fifth in the West Region coaches’ poll. Their next game will be against Hawaii Pacific in Honolulu on Oct. 4.