FULL MEET RESULTS: Click here
AZUSA, Calif. -- In its first meet of the 2012 NCATA (National Collegiate Acrobatic and Tumbling Association) season, Azusa Pacific used strong performances in the acro and team events to defeat Baylor University for a season-opening 269.39-257.40 victory.
A year ago, Baylor and Azusa Pacific finished with 3-5 records, and split a pair of head-to-head meets during the season. Azusa Pacific’s season ended in the opening round of the inauguarl NCATA National Championships to Quinnipiac University, and Baylor managed a semifinals appearance before falling short to championship host and eventual national champion Oregon Ducks.
Azusa Pacific and Baylor each brought young squads into the opener. The Cougars have just three seniors, while the Bears carry only one on their 2012 roster.
“This was a big confidence builder for such a young team," Cougar head coach Colleen Kausrud said. "We definitely needed that and it was a gift from God. We will go into Oregon with confidence, and the new athletes are excited for it."
In last year's season split, each school won on the road, so Saturday night's win was Azusa Pacific’s first home win in three tries against an acrobatics & tumbling program from an NCAA Division I school.
Just like last season’s two-way meet, the Bears came out strong in the compulsory heat to take a quick lead over the Cougars. The compulsory round consists of four heats, including an acro heat, a pyramid heat, a toss heat, and the tumbling heat. With the completion of the compulsory event, Baylor edged Azusa Pacific by half a point to take a 38.5-38.0 lead
Azusa Pacific rebounded and took the overall lead after the acro heat. The acro heat consists of three heats, each lasting 45 seconds, with four athletes on the mat for each heat. Azusa Pacific posted a 27.42 to Baylor’s 24.16, enough to pass the Bears for the overall lead through two events, 65.42-62.66.
They didn’t stop there. The Cougars went on to take a 28.50-27.50 win in the pyramid heat to take a 93.92-90.16 lead into halftime.
The three-heat toss event, which has a maximum of 30 points, was the only event the Cougars lost besides the initial compulsory heats. Baylor shaved its halftime deficit by four-tenths of a point, scoring 27.40 to Azusa Pacific’s 27.00.
In the fifth of six events, the Cougars and Bears were nearly equal in the tumbling event. However, Azusa Pacific grabbed another event win by just a tenth of a point. Sophomore Jessica Laughton posted a 9.65 in the aerial pass, which helped lift the Cougars to the event win. Although the landings weren’t all clean, Azusa Pacific still took a 53.20-53.19 win to head into the final team routine with the overall lead.
Heading into the final team event with a four-point edge over Baylor, a precarious lead considering the 110 possible points the team event is worth. However, Azusa Pacific put together a strong performance at the end, posting a score of 95.27 to Baylor’s 86.74, to complete its first win of the 2012 season.
"The team event is the hardest event because you have to include so many different personalities and get a really strong bond," Kausrud said. "It’s amazing to see them perform really well when sometimes it is hit and miss."
Azusa Pacific will head to Eugene, Oregon on Feb. 17, for a three-way meet with the host Ducks along with Quinnipiac University. Quinnipiac ended the Cougars' season last year at the same site, while Oregon went on to win the NCATA championship on its home floor.
"For Oregon, we will be bumping everything from top to bottom," Kausrud said. "Our tumbling will have to get better. We have had some injuries, so (the next two weeks) is a good chance for them to get healthy and rebuild their confidence."
Azusa Pacific's next home match features a visit from the defending national champion Oregon Ducks on Tuesday, April 17th.
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS (filmed and edited by Rob Small)