HAMDEN, Conn. -- Azusa Pacific needed its best performance of the season to withstand a surprisingly strong performance from winless Quinnipiac Monday night, and the Cougars came up with exactly the type of finish they needed to hold off the Bobcats for a victory margin of sixteen-hundredths of a point.
The final margin was the narrowest regular-season victory in the brief two-year history of National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) competition, with only last year’s national championship matchup between Oregon and Maryland providing a closer finish (.129).
Just three days after scoring a season-best 283.690 in a losing effort in a high-scoring triangular meet with Fairmont State and Maryland, Azusa Pacific’s winning performance represented another increase of over 3.5 points on its previous season-high. Iliana Ibrahim’s perfect 10 score on the open pass heat of the tumbling event pulled the Cougars to within .06 of Quinnipiac heading into the final team routine.
Then, in the final team event, which is worth a whopping 110 points, Azusa Pacific improved on its season-best team event score by 2.07 points, registering 104.92 to Quinnipiac’s 104.70 to erase the Bobcats’ lead and emerge with the win.
The Cougars got off to a good start, registering season-best scores in eight of the 10 first-half heats, including a perfect 10 in the pyramid heat of the opening compulsory event along with a 9.95 in the opening pyramid heat. The fast start gave Azusa Pacific a halftime lead of almost a full point (.94) with a season-best opening half score of 97.53. However, that lead quickly dwindled as Quinnipiac whittled away nearly half of that margin in the three-heat toss event which opened the second half. In the opening heat of the six-heat tumbling event, the Bobcats took their first lead of the meet by scoring a 9.80 in the duo pass compared to Azusa Pacific’s 9.30.
That pushed Quinnipiac in front by a hundredth of a point, and the Bobcats extended the lead by another three-tenths over the next two tumbling heats. With just three heats left plus the team routine, Azusa Pacific came back to win all three, starting with wins in the aerial pass and the six element pass before Ibrahim stuck the landing to complete her perfect open pass to close out the tumbling event.
After posting season-bests in all 10 second-half heats in Friday’s triangular meet at Maryland, the Cougars upgraded five of those second-half marks again Monday. In addition, Azusa Pacific posted four season-high event scores, doing so in all three first-half events (compulsory, acro, and pyramid) along with the final team event.
With the win, Azusa Pacific evens its overall season record to 3-3, while Quinnipiac falls to 0-10 on the year. The Cougars have one regular-season dual meet remaining, an April 17 date with defending NCATA national champion Oregon. After that, the Cougars will travel to the second annual NCATA national championships, hosted from April 26-28 this year by Baylor University in Waco, Texas.