APU Summer Sports Camps Build Community

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Azusa Pacific University’s campus is quiet over the summer—for all of three weeks. Then, at the beginning of each June, hundreds of excited kids and talented high school athletes flood campus to participate in six summer sports camps—baseball, basketball, football, softball, soccer, and volleyball.

APU football head coach Victor Santa Cruz leads an annual camp where more than 375 high school athletes attend each sold out session. “We draw athletes from all around California, Colorado, Texas, and even Hawaii. Parents will put their kids on a plane to travel here because they don’t want to miss our camp,” he said. “We limit the camp size to ensure the best experience possible. We provide personal attention to each student athlete.”

Santa Cruz said he recruits many of these high-caliber players. “Camp gives us a good opportunity to find students with strong character, academic skills, and athleticism. We’re looking for visionary young people who want to do something bigger with their lives,” he said. “We share who we are spiritually and academically. These athletes are really hungry for that. We often hear, ‘You guys are different. How can I be a part of this place?’”

APU’s other sports camps focus on a younger crowd (grades K-8). Cougar baseball head coach Paul Svagdis has led a summer camp for 10 years. The program has grown from about 25 kids in 2009 to 100 children per session today. An average day at camp is jam packed, beginning at 8 a.m. with warm ups, throwing, and stretching. Campers then split into two groups to practice offense on the Cougar Baseball Field with stations, including base-running and hitting, and defensive fundamentals at the Dillon Recreational Complex. After an hour, the groups switch, then they take a lunch break before afternoon games. “We play games on different parts of the field. They always want to play in center field because they can hit home runs there,” Svagdis said. “While home runs are great, we reward kids for demonstrating good character and sportsmanship. That’s where the big bucket of candy comes in.”

A Glendora resident, Svagdis said he often sees kids across town wearing their Cougar baseball gear from summer camp. “I’ll be in a grocery store and a little guy will come up to me and say, ‘Hi Coach Paul, do you remember me?’ They’ll tell me how excited they are for camp next year and how they asked for a week of baseball camp for Christmas,” he said. “Their parents will even tell me how they did extra chores all year so they could attend a second week of camp.”

Svagdis said APU’s camp is truly special because of the student athlete volunteers. “APU students are first class,” he said. “Just a couple weeks ago, I had four players travel to a little league game to support one of the kids who came through our camp. That’s not uncommon with our players. We build relationships within the community and it opens up opportunities for people to connect with the university.”

APU women’s soccer head coach Brooke Lincoln seconded this. “It’s pretty special to see these kids interacting with my college players. It gives our players an opportunity to give back. It wasn’t that long ago that they were one of those little campers. Now, it’s come full circle for them,” she said. “Some of them want to coach in the future, so this is an opportunity for them to get their feet wet. For other players, it gives them a different perspective on the game, not just as a player, but as a teacher. They can be a bright light, an encouragement, an inspiration, and a role model for these children.”

Lincoln said the best part of summer camp came months after camp ended last year. “We had a lot of these kids come to our games,” she said. “We invest in them for a week or two, help them develop their skills, and they come out to support us at our home games. They’ll never know how much that means to us.”

To learn more about APU summer sports camps, click here.

Men's Soccer Team Clinches Playoff Spot With Win On Senior Night

This article originally appeared in the Empire State Tribune, the student newspaper of The King’s College.

The King's College men's soccer team punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 3-0 win over Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Science. The team had a solid defensive effort, backed by two goals from freshmen striker Spencer Smith and one from sophomore midfielder Anton Soerlin.

The Lions scored in the 12th minute of the first half, as Smith was able to kick the ball just under Albany's diving goalie, with an assist from sophomore midfielder Edvin Loefgren. After the quick start, the Lions were unable to capitalize on a series of shots on goal throughout the first half and the first 15 minutes of the second half. Although they missed shots, their defense locked down, not allowing Albany to score even once.

"They did everything we asked them to," said head coach Tom Harman. "We knew this was going to be a tough game and we knew we needed our defense to step up. We knew that as long as we all did our jobs, we would win, and that's what we did. It's been a collective effort and everyone did their job great."

Harman was impressed with how his defense played today, helping set the offense up with opportunities to score. Smith took advantage of those opportunities with his two goals, his 16th and 17th goals of the season.

"I was nervous coming in to this game. I had a lot of pressure on my back, but honestly, that just motivated me," Smith said.

Smith was able to score once more in the 60th minute of the game, as a kick by another player bounced off the crossbar and landed in front of him. He put the ball into the back of the goal with ease as the goalkeeper just stood there.

Fifteen minutes later, in the 76th minute of the game, Soerlin was able to increase the lead, stealing the ball from a defender and taking advantage of the goalkeeper being out of position, sending the ball to the far side of the net with a beautiful arcing kick.

Both Smith and Soerlin have had big impacts on the team this season. Smith leads the team in goals as a freshman. However, he said he would not have been able to do so without the support and mentorship of the four seniors on the team.

These four seniors- Nick Beckman, Tom Champlin, Nolan Wolfe, and Luke Borchelt- were honored before the game on their senior night. Coach Harman presented each of them with plaques and spoke about their impact on the team.

"This season the seniors welcomed in a whole bunch of guys. They've set the tone for what we expect from our players on and off the field, what we expect from our athletes at King's," Harman said. "Without people like Craig, Ben and Luke there would be no soccer program here. There was nothing here when they started and they were the ones who saw through it and stuck to it. They've been phenomenal."

Craig Wishart played a big role in the game notching two saves. He has allowed only seven goals all season, over the course of 12 games played. Wishart has 37 saves on the season, for a saving percentage of .841. However the players all refused to take credit for their success, instead attributing it to a total team effort.

"We played amazing tonight," Soerlin said. "We started the season off well, but we got run over in our first real test of the season. That was a wake up call for us. Since then we've been working together as a team, not individual players, we're a great team. Our defense was super disciplined tonight."

With the win, the Lions have locked their spot in the postseason. Smith, Soerlin, and the rest of the team celebrated in front of a crowd of over 30 King's students at the game. However, coach Harman didn't relish in the moment with his team.

"I don't get too happy about things like that. I'm already focused on the next game," Harman said. "I'm focused on winning our next game and winning through the playoffs. Eventually, I'll think about how this is a nice achievement, but for right now, I'm thinking about who will we draw, who will we play in the playoffs, what we need to work on."

Harman said the team needs to work on slowing down their attacks a bit to make them more effective. He said they also need to work on consistency because they cannot afford to make mistakes in the playoffs.

The King’s Lions are ranked in the top 10 nationally in USCAA Division 2. If they win Conference Semi-finals, they will automatically get a bid to play at the National Championship in November, according to Wishart.

The playoffs will start on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Women's Soccer Team Celebrates Senior Day Despite Loss

This article originally appeared in the Empire State Tribune, the student newspaper of The King’s College.

Just two months ago, there wasn't going to be a women's soccer team at King's this year. After a series of incoming players decided not to come to King's, the season had a bleak outlook. The team had only six members, five shy of the 11 needed for a starting lineup.

Seniors Megan Leblanc and Hannah Hagadorn were not deterred. They helped recruit eight other King's girls to join the team, along with a new head coach.

Due to their efforts, the team was able to put a four game regular season schedule together. They started the season off 1-1, with a 2-0 win over New Rochelle and a 0-3 loss to SUNY-ESF.

On Sunday, Oct. 14, the team faced Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, losing 0-8 on their senior day. Hagadorn was not brought down by the loss.

"I thought we played pretty well. Everyone was encouraging. It can get really exhausting when we're down like that. But overall I think we played a good team game," Hagadorn said.

The Lion's defense surrendered six first half goals to Albany, who was led by senior Erin Tersegno. Hagadorn and Leblanc were taken aback by Tersegno play. At halftime, the Lions huddled and planned on how they could better defend against her.

"She's a great striker, very quick, faster than anyone on our team. We had to come up with a tactic to keep up with her, which was hard," Hagadorn said. "We did a better job of it in the second half."

The Lion's played a stronger second half. Although they were unable to get on the board, the defense gave up just two goals.

Head coach Bracey Fuenzalida said he was proud of the way the girls rallied in the second half.

"I saw no quit in them. I saw resolution. I saw enjoyment, even in the midst of a difficult circumstance. If you have that in an athlete, that means you can go pretty far with them," Fuenzalida said. "They beat us handily, but I enjoyed the fight out of our players."

Fuenzalida has only been the coach for a matter of weeks, but he said he has gotten to know the girls and has enjoyed every moment of watching the team grow during the season. When asked about the play of the two seniors on senior day, Fuenzalida had nothing but positive things to say.

"The two of them have exceptional character. They both have a strong faith and are great leaders on the team," Fuenzalida said. "Megan Leblanc went out of her way to help me from my first day coaching. I've coached many teams before, but having her to help me was incredible. I've gotten to know them both really well and I wish I had gotten to coach them all four years."

Leblanc was impressed by the way Fuenzalida was able to come in and coach the team. However she said this game felt weird to her.

"This being a final home game felt absolutely weird. I came to King's to play soccer and that's almost over," Leblanc said. "But I'll still be excited to see the program grow over the next few years."

Men's Soccer Drops Second Game Despite Solid Outing

This article originally appeared in the Empire State Tribune, the student newspaper of The King’s College.

The King's men's soccer team dropped their second game of the season against Berkeley College, 2-1, bringing their season’s record to 6-2.

The Lions had several opportunities to score in the first half, with six shots, including five shots on goal. However, they failed to capitalize on these opportunities.

"We created a lot of chances to score but we struggled to put away those chances," said junior defender Jackson Kane. "Our attacks and defense started breaking down. We made a couple sloppy mistakes and had fewer chances. We didn't give ourselves a lot of chances to win the game.”

The Lions’ one goal of the night came in the 39th minute of the first half.

Freshmen defender Diego Herrera had a free kick from over 50 yards away. He lifted the ball over all the players on the field. All they could do was watch as the ball soared in just over the Berkley goalie's hands.

"That was really cool.  I had seen something like it once, but only once before in high school," Kane said. "It's always really fun to see a guy score a goal like that. It really got us energized, but I think it also played a part in their goal right after. We relaxed too much on defense."

Berkley midfielder Carlos Leon was able to score just one minute later, tying the game 1-1, where it stayed until after halftime.

Midfielder Jean-Gardy Derineau scored for Berkley scored in the 52nd minute, giving them a 2-1 lead, which they would not surrender for the rest of the game.

“It’s obviously a disappointing result, we feel the quality within our group means we should be looking to win every game we go into,” head coach Tom Harman said. “We played well and dealt with their physicality and long direct switches of play well. However, we switched off a couple of times and got punished. We lacked the intensity when pressing in the second half and once they had a lead they made life very difficult for us.”

The Lions had just four shots in the second half, but none of them were on goal. Kane said the Lions needed to work together as a team more in the second half.

"We've got to start committing to doing things as a team," Kane said. "We were doing some things together, but the further we got up the field, the more individually we were playing. We're going to start to practice more in units and tailor that approach in the coming games."

This loss was only the second game of the season where the Lions scored less than four goals and gave up more than one goal. Harman focused on the things the team needs to work on before their next game.

“There are a lot of freshman players in our group and it’s something we have to learn, we have to be on for 90 minutes against teams,” Harman said.

The team will have their annual senior night at their next game against Vaughn. The game will be on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn.

"It should be a pretty good matchup. This team can be tough defensively, but I'm pretty confident we can win that game," Kane said. "It should be a good opportunity for our seniors to play their final home game and end their soccer career on a good note.”

Cougars' Soccer Struggles Continue In Cornerstone Cup

This article was originally published in ZU News.

The first Cornerstone Cup games for both the men’s and women’s soccer didn’t go in the Cougars’ direction. The women’s game ended in a tie, 1-1, after two goals in the first two minutes. The men’s game ended in a 0-2 loss, with Biola scoring twice in the final eight minutes.

Women’s Soccer

“Our girls knew the significance of it. They were a part of building on what the volleyball team had done,” head coach Don Lawrence said. “Biola is a good team. They’re very athletic and well coached. We had a battle on our hands. We couldn’t get a hold of ourselves in the first half, but we did better in the second half.”

Freshman midfielder Randy Macadangdang scored APU’s only goal two minutes into the game. Biola then came racing back across the field and scored on a penalty kick from Paula-Marie Labate only 20 seconds later.

Neither team scored for the rest of the game, though both had plenty of chances. APU took seven shots, including three on goal. Biola took 17 shots with seven of them on goal. APU had three corner kicks to Biola’s seven. The Cougars did outplay Biola in one important regard, they only had four fouls on the night while Biola had 16.

Junior defender Brook Gower said she was proud of the way the team played.

“We had some really good chances. We didn’t give up,” Gower said. “It wasn’t our best game, but we played until the last minute and didn’t let them score.”

In the second overtime of the game with a little over a minute remaining, a Biola player took a shot that soared through the air and looked like it might go in the goal, before it bounced off the crossbar.

“My heart dropped right then,” Gower said. “I didn’t know if it was going in. I thought Zoey [Bauman, the Cougars’ starting goalkeeper] would have saved it if it was. I have a lot of faith in her. But my first instinct was just to get it out immediately after it hit the crossbar.”

Lawrence was even more relieved than Gower when he saw the ball bounce off.

“We’ve had two games this year in overtime with a similar shot where it hit the crossbar and went into the goal instead of bouncing off. We lost to Chico State and Sonoma State on those. We got a little bit of luck tonight,” Lawrence said.

Gower said she would have liked to win the first soccer game of the Cornerstone Cup, especially in front of the home crowd.

“I like what we’re doing. I like that we’re trying to bring the rivalry back,” Gower said. “It was especially good to have all the other athletes come support us. It felt really good to have such a fanbase.”

Lawrence saw this game as a very significant one. It was not the first time he had coached against Biola.

“Since I came here in 1973 as an assistant basketball coach, that rivalry for me is the biggest thing,” Lawrence said. “For me it probably meant a lot more than for some of these young girls. This is the first time they have ever played Biola.”

Lawrence said the team played well, given that they were without their top scorer and top defensive back.

“We have a rough stretch ahead of us. We can’t get ahead of ourselves, but if this crew continues to improve the way they’ve improved since the beginning of the year, we’ve got a good shot of taking this thing [the conference title],” Lawrence said. “We’ve got to make sure that we take it one game at a time, one half at a time, one play at a time. That’s been a little difficult for them.”

After the Biola game, the women’s team played two more games against Dominican and Notre Dame de Namur. Both games resulted in wins for the Cougars, moving them to a 5-3-2 on the season. They will play at home on Saturday against Hawaii Pacific at 5 p.m. at the Cougar Soccer Complex.

Men’s Soccer

“The first half was the best half we played all season. We moved the ball well and played with a crispness and precision we haven’t had yet,” head coach Dave Blomquist said. “The second half we came out a flat and we know as a team we can’t do that. We have to stay at a high level.”

Blomquist emphasized the imperativeness of finishing strong in the second half. This was also echoed by senior midfielder Zach McCollum.

“We need to work on not letting up in the second half. We just couldn’t put it away,” McCollum said.

McCollum believed that APU played better than Biola for most of the game.

“Finishing is our biggest problem. We get the ball in really good positions but we’re not going to win any games unless we put it in the net. That’s what it comes down to,” McCollum said. “I honestly think we played them off of the park. We moved the ball really well. They barely had any chances.”

Blomquist acknowledged that the team needs to work on their offense.

“Our back four is moving the ball well and defending almost every play. The midfield three was fantastic in the first half, but somewhat stagnant in the second half,” Blomquist said. “In the front three, we’re still searching for the combination of players that’s going to make a difference.”

After the loss to Biola, the men’s team won against Dominican, but lost to Notre Dame de Namur, and have now fallen to an overall record of 2-8-1. They will play at home on Saturday against Hawaii Pacific at 7:30 p.m. at the Cougar Soccer Complex.

Kaleb Armbrust Reflects On Soccer Career

This article was originally published in ZU News.

“I didn’t want to go here at first,” Kaleb Armbrust said while reflecting on his time at APU. “I was looking to do my own thing because my parents and my brother went here. I kind of wanted to go on my own path.”

Armbrust was looking at playing soccer at two other schools—a small school in Tennessee and Point Loma Nazarene University, one of APU’s main rivals. He is originally from San Diego, so Point Loma felt a bit like home and he already knew the coach.

However, as the time came closer to making a commitment for college, Armbrust decided on APU.

“I kept praying and praying about it,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “God closed that door [of Point Loma] and brought me here instead. I had a good relationship with the coach already, from my brother playing and me watching the games. Seeing how the team was, a close-knit family, I felt better and better about coming to APU.”

Armbrust’s brother, Keenan, was a sophomore on the men’s soccer team at the time.

“He was the first one that I called when I decided to come to APU,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “I got two years in high school and two years in college to play with him.”

Both brothers played offense and Kaleb had an immediate influence.

“Kaleb’s had a big impact, really from day one,” head coach David Blomquist said. “He was an important attacker for us, even as a freshman.”

Unfortunately, Kaleb got into a bad tackle and broke his right ankle in the first scrimmage of the season.

“I had been working really hard during training. I was pretty bummed out,” Kaleb Armbrust said.

Luckily for Kaleb and the team, the healing process went much faster than expected.

“Our trainer was really good. I actually got back in about five weeks,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “It was tough. You’re kind of timid coming back, especially with your ankles. That was a bummer having to sit out there every practice just watching.”

Armbrust had the option to take a redshirt, meaning he would sit his freshmen year out, but still be eligible to play for four years.

“Coach asked me if I wanted to redshirt, but I wanted to spend every bit of time with my brother that I could. So I told him no,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “My trainer said that I could get back soon. The team and my brother were really encouraging. I was trusting that God knew what he was doing and I was just excited to get back and play.”

Kaleb healed just soon enough to make the team’s annual trip to Hawaii. But one week before, his brother Keenan got injured too.

“I tore a ligament in my foot. I thought to myself, ‘This is it, I won’t get to play with him this year.’ It felt like God was trying to get our attention,” Keenan Armbrust said.

Keenan healed quickly too and came back before the end of the season.

“It was down to us having to beat Dominican at home to clench the conference title,” Keenan Armbrust said. “Kaleb ended up having two assists to my two goals and I had an assist to his goal for us to win. I remember him running to the corner and praying and it just felt like God was looking out for us all along.”

Once they were both healthy, the brothers turned the Cougars offense into a force to be reckoned with.

“It was great to have both of them on the field. Brothers sometimes have that sixth sense of what the other’s going to do,” Blomquist said. “They’re connection on the field was fantastic. Those were some special games.”

Blomquist said as good as they were on the field, their impact was even bigger off the field.

“They were APU through and through,” Blomquist said. “It was great to have two players playing significant roles on the field but also understanding how the program functions as a family off the field. They really got the big picture of what we’re doing for the men’s soccer program.”

Kaleb said that game was his favorite memory at APU, making history with Keenan.

“I just think it’s pretty insane that we got to play together through high school and college. God has blessed our journey together and I think our coaches would testify to that,” Keenan Armbrust said.

Since graduating, Keenan is now playing for the New Orleans Jesters in the National Premier Soccer League.

The past couple of seasons haven’t gone as well as his first one here, but Kaleb has still enjoyed his time at APU.

“We’ve had a couple rough years but it’s been fun, just being able to persevere with all the guys. Everyone encourages each other through all the pain and struggles,” Kaleb Armbrust said.

The men’s soccer team is still looking for their first win, they sit at 0-5 as of Sept. 22. They’ve already lost two games by one goal.

“It’s been a little tough, because we’ve been playing pretty well,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “We really feel like we’ve been controlling the games, but the results just aren’t going our way, so it’s kind of humbling and frustrating. We’re trusting that if we keep playing the way we can, it [the wins] will come eventually.”

Kaleb and Blomquist think the Cougars can still turn the season around.

However, Kaleb has other things to worry about. He will be graduating in May and will be getting married in July.

“Two of my best friends on the team, my roommates, will be my groomsmen. It’s really cool having guys that I can be so close to, that I can invite to my wedding,” Kaleb Armbrust said.

He and his fiancée are planning on moving back to Sacramento, where they went to high school together. He’s not sure what he wants to do yet.

“I love the outdoors, so hopefully something in that industry. We’ll see what God has planned for that,” Kaleb Armbrust said.

He shared one last thought on his time at APU.

“It was a blessing to play with my brother. I miss that, of course,” Kaleb Armbrust said. “But it’s also been really cool to play for myself and be a leader on the team.”