After a championship-filled summer, fall sports are back in Azusa.
With the return of another academic year at Azusa Pacific University comes another season filled with high expectations for Cougar athletics. Returning experience is a common theme across the board ahead of the fall sports season. See previews for each APU fall sport below.
To say the men’s soccer schedule is difficult this season would be an understatement. Three of the Cougars’ non-conference matchups this season are set to come against Preseason Top 25 teams. After a 6-8-4 record last season, APU will have their hands full attempting to improve upon last year.
Heading into the 2023 campaign, the Cougars were picked fifth in the PacWest Preseason Poll, which places them in the middle of the pack. Expect a big season from senior center back Fritz Oestreicher and senior goalkeeper Leo Moreno, both of whom were selected to the Preseason All-PacWest team.
The Cougars started this season with a tie against No. 10 Cal State Dominguez Hills and a loss to Regis University, but look to pick up their first win at home against Stanislaus State University.
Much like the men’s team, the women’s soccer schedule is even more difficult, as they are slated to play four Preseason Top 25 teams. The Cougars, who finished an impressive 9-4-4 last year, will have another tough road ahead of them.
Despite their difficult schedule, the Cougars are expected to be one of the top teams in the PacWest Conference this year. The Cougars came in at fourth in the PacWest Preseason Poll behind Concordia, Hawai’i Hilo and Point Loma. They return four All-PacWest players from last season, including senior forward Bethany Tee, senior midfielder Katie Prado, junior defender Giana Ocello, and junior goalkeeper Maddie Williams.
APU started their season 1-1 after an opening night victory against Cal State Monterey Bay and a loss to Cal Poly Pomona. They will look to pick up their next wins during a two-game road trip against Sonoma State and Cal State East Bay this week.
It looks to be another exciting season for APU volleyball. A 15-14 record in 2022 saw a slight step down from 2021, where the team finished 18-10. However, after being picked fifth in the preseason poll, the Cougars expect to take another step forward.
APU returns two veteran players from last season in seniors Kyra Palmbush and Annaka Jorgenson, who were both selected to the Preseason All-PacWest team. Jorgenson also received recognition as the Preseason PacWest Player of the Year ahead of the 2023 season.
The volleyball team started 1-3 after their play at the Concordia Invitational, and looks to stack the win column later this week in the CPP/APU Tournament.
Of all the fall sports starting their seasons, the cross-country teams have the most hype. On the men’s side, the Cougars were voted the unanimous preseason favorite in the PacWest. The Cougars also received national attention after being ranked No. 16 in the NCAA Division II Coaches Preseason Poll. Returning many talented runners, while bringing on eight newcomers, the Cougars are in a great spot to surpass their finish of PacWest runner-up.
The women’s team enters the season with equally high ambitions. APU was picked third in the women’s PacWest Preseason Poll and ranked No. 25 nationally. Like the men’s team, they return a talented core group of runners while welcoming four newcomers, three of whom have prior collegiate experience.
Both the men’s and women’s teams open their season at the UCR Invitational in Riverside, CA on Sept. 16, before heading to Louisville to compete in the Live in Lou Cross Country Classic.
Be sure to check back all season for APU sports coverage on zunews.com or @zumedia.