Friday night, the APU Cougars played their last preseason game against the CSUSB Coyotes. The Cougars’ record going into this game was 2-2-1 and the Coyotes 3-0-2.
During the first half against Cal State San Bernardino, Azusa Pacific University was controlling the game. The Cougars kept the ball on the Coyotes’ side of the field and limited their shot attempts as well.
The Coyotes started to fight back towards the end of the half. In the 34th minute of the half, #10 Gregoire Diep’s penalty kick was blocked to take the lead. Goalkeeper Leo Moreno finished the half with one blocked shot, and defender Fritz Oestreicher had two clutch saves.
The Cougars went into halftime tied at 0-0.
The Coyotes came fighting right out of the gate to start the second half. The Cougars were playing solid defense till a controversial handball was called in the 29th minute of the second half. San Bernardino scored on the penalty kick, taking a 0-1 over APU.
After falling behind on the scoreboard, the Cougars rallied and put a lot of pressure on San Bernardino’s side of the field. Joshua Lugo, #16, Marco Astorga, #19, Juancarlos Rodriguez, #27 and Andrew Gomez, #31, kept San Bernardino’s goalie busy.
Despite the offensive pressure, the team was not able to score. APU had two free-kick opportunities that were missed in the 21st minute and in the 12th minute of the second half. In the end, APU was not able to generate a goal, and they lost 0-1.
When asked about the challenges in the second half, defender Juancarlos Rodriguez said, “I feel like we dominated. It was frustrating when they got that PK … it hit our center back’s chest and they called it.”
Although this is the Cougars’ third loss in a row, Rodriguez is confident in the team; “I think we’re ready. We should have won tonight. I think moving forward, going into conference, we’re going to have a lot of confidence and we’re going to be ready.”
Head Coach Dave Blomquist praised his team’s effort when asked about the second half.
“We increased our urgency and desire as the game wore on. Especially when you go down a goal, then you need to do that. I think we responded well,” he said.
Although the Cougars ended their preseason games with a loss, Coach Blomquist believes that the games were critical in building up the team. “There’s a lot of new players, we’re striving to find our way, and what’s going to make us successful,” he said.
On Sept. 21, the Cougars will be in enemy territory against rival Biola. Coach Blomquist believes the team can turn things around with rivalry week coming up. “Tonight they showed togetherness and desire. If they keep that up, things will start to go our way,” he said.
Hopefully, the team will learn and grow from the preseason games and band together as they head into the conference.