Senior midfielder Trenton Titus fires his first goal into the back of the net to give the Cougars a 2-0 cushion. Photo by Steven Mercado

In a hard-fought game between Azusa Pacific men’s soccer (6-2, 3-0) and the BYU-Hawaii Seasiders (2-2-1, 0-1), the Cougars brought the defensive intensity and moved the ball well as they maintained the upper hand in the 2-1 victory Thursday night.

Senior midfielders Oktay Bulut and Trenton Titus sparked the Cougars’ offensive attack. As head coach Dave Blomquist called for his team to work the ball inside-out, the Cougars passed the ball to the inside and touched it back to the outside in a continuous give-and-go pattern, which opened up scoring opportunities throughout the game.

The first goal for the Cougars came in the 41st minute. They continued to work the ball into the Seasiders’ zone, but after a few consecutive plays in the box, Bulut was clipped as he was fighting for position and the officials called for a penalty kick. Bulut netted his second PK of the year to give the Cougars the lead, 1-0.

The second goal came only 6:30 into the second half. Senior midfielder Steven Shiokari received the ball toward the top of the box, dropped it on the right side to Titus, who then fired the shot top shelf for the goal. This was Titus’ first goal of the year as the Cougars took a commanding 2-0 lead.

“We worked the ball really well on both of those goals,” Blomquist said. “We’re really sharp in the box. Oktay earned the penalty and converted and Trenton’s goal was a real quick interplay. We need those two players to show that senior leadership [comes] through in the big moments like they did tonight.”

The Cougars’ back four played exceptionally. The Seasiders stayed aggressive on the offensive attack, but the wall of defenders did not let up. In the Cougars’ six wins, they have only allowed three goals and look to maintain their defensive toughness further down the line.

“Jamarko Washington and Nate Nugen have been great in the center, and Dane Johnson and Tanner Akol have been huge [on the outside],” Blomquist said. “They’ve been making all of the plays when they have needed to. With 90 minutes against a quality team, it’s tough to keep them off the scoreboard the whole time. We were close to getting the clean sheet, but that was a great shot at the end to get the goal.”

The Cougars had the advantage in shots against BYU-Hawaii, 15-11. The superb ball movement from the Cougars resulted in this advantage and Blomquist said he was pleased with the offense.

“I thought our ball movement was great tonight,” Blomquist said. “We were anticipating and reading each others movements. Our passing was crisp; I thought it was our best passing of the year. Those things take time. It takes time for players to develop that on the field, and we have a squad that is continuing to get better.”

With 45 seconds left to play, the Seasiders ended any Cougar hopes of recording their third consecutive shutout with a strike from the right side by junior forward Richard Harrison. The Seasiders proceeded to push the ball upfield, but to no avail as the Cougars closed out the game for their sixth consecutive victory.

The Cougars look to keep the winning streak going against Hawai’i Pacific at Monday’s home game. Game time Sept. 30 is set for 7:30 p.m., directly after the women’s soccer game.