AZUSA, Calif. --- Sophomore Zach Bautista's goal with just 33 seconds remaining in the match gave Biola a stunning 1-0 win over arch-rival Azusa Pacific in a GSAC Semifinal match on Saturday at APU.
The Eagles, ranked No. 19 in the NAIA and the tournament's No. 3 seed, improve to 13-3-2 with the victory, their second this season over the Cougars. APU, which may have seen its chances at an NAIA Tournament berth evaporate with the late goal, drops to 16-3-0 on the season.
The dramatic goal capped off a thrilling match which featured a number of great chances for both sides. Biola wound up outshooting the Cougars 15-14, though the Eagles put seven shots on frame to Azusa Pacific's 1.
The winning goal was the fourth goal of the season--and third match-winner--by Bautista, who tapped the ball just inside the far post off a great cross from the left by Kennedy Chongo. After the raucous celebration, Biola just needed a pair of long clearances to wear down the final 30 seconds of the match and secure a berth in the GSAC Championship match.
The Eagles, who will be making their first trip to the conference finals, face No. 1-seed The Master's College on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 2:00 p.m. in Santa Clarita. The winner of the GSAC Tournament receives and automatic berth the NAIA Championship Tournament, while the other side will hope for an at-large berth. The highest-ranked teams in next weekâ€™s poll which did not win their conferenceâ€™s automatic bid will be awarded the national tournamentâ€™s at-large bids. The NAIA national office will announce the full tournament field on Sunday, November 16, along with the 15 opening-round pairings that will be played on Saturday, November 21, at NAIA campuses nationwide.
The match will be a rematch of the final contest of the regular season for the two teams which determined the regular-season champion. The Mustangs won that match 2-1 to claim the regular-season title.
Biola came out fired up against the Cougars, controlling play early on and registering the first two shots of the match, though neither were on frame. Azusa Pacific's first shot--a blast by GSAC Player of the Year Eric Winblad--proved to be its only shot on goal of the day, though it was easily saved by Biola goalkeeper Aaron Fenlason.
The Cougars did manage to rattle a trio of shots off the woodwork, the first in the first half as a quick shot by Davis Delamarter hit the left post and stayed out in the 26th minute.
In the second half, Biola again went to work and nearly took the lead in the 54th minute. Jake Ravenscraft recorded a shot on net which was turned away by Cougar netminder Tyler Stromberg and a follow-up shot by Bautista 15 seconds later was blocked by the defense and cleared from danger.
Azusa Pacific once again rattled the cage with a blast by Vini Dantas which bounced off the post and out in the 59th minute.
Chongo had another great chance to put up the first points of the game in the 75th minute only to have Stromberg make another great save. The Cougars came right down the field a minute later and had their best chance of the game as Cito Soriano lofted a shot at the Biola goal only to have it hit off the crossbar.
Biola caught a huge break in the 81st minute as APU's Gareth Tomlinson received a straight red card after elbowing Fenlason in the neck away from the ball. The card left the Cougars with just 10 men and without one of their starting defenders the final nine minutes of regulation.
The Eagles were able to capitalize on the mistake with a quality scoring chance in the final minute which culminated in Biola's lone goal of the contest.
The 1-0 victory was Biola's second win over the Cougars this season as the Eagles pulled of a win by the same score in La Mirada earlier this season. Biola entered the season having lost seven-straight matches to the Cougars over the last six seasons.
Azusa Pacific had been ranked as the top team in the GSAC which was reflected by its high ranking in the NAIA National Poll. The Cougars fell behind The Master's for the first time in the last ranking, but were still ahead of the Eagles despite the loss earlier in the season. Biola should finally move ahead of the Cougars in the national rankings, improving on its No. 19 ranking and likely into the top 15.
Saturday's GSAC Championship match at The Master's College begins at 2:00 p.m. Tickets will be available the day of the match and cost $8 for adults and $5 for students.
Written by Jeff Hoffman, Sports Information Director.