AZUSA, Calif. -- Despite winning four of six events and scoring a season-high, Azusa Pacific was edged by Baylor University in the team event and had to settle for a tri-meet split with the Bears and Hawai‘i Pacific University with a crowd of 1,114 on hand Tuesday night at the Felix Event Center.
Baylor tallied 281.370 points to Azusa Pacific’s 281.100, resulting in the third-closest meet finish the Cougars have been involved in during the program’s four-year history of National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) membership. The first-year program from Hawai‘i Pacific dropped to 1-5 on the season despite scoring a season-high 273.090 points. The final scores for all three teams were season-bests, and Baylor’s last two meets have been decided by a margin of less than six-tenths of a point.
For the second straight meet, the Cougars were impressive in the tumbling event, posting a half-point advantage over Baylor to take a lead of 1.30 points into the team event. However, the Bears were much sharper in their team performance, scoring 100.42 points to Azusa Pacific’s 98.85 to finish with a final winning margin of just 27-hundredths of a point. With the sweep, Baylor evened its season record at 2-2, while Azusa Pacific is now 3-2 and HPU falls to 1-5.
The closest finishes the Cougars have been a part of include a 2012 win at Quinnipiac by a margin of 16-hundredths of a point, and an NCATA national championship first-round defeat against Quinnipiac, which was decided by .231 points.
The Cougars used a quick start in the compulsory event to build an early lead, scoring highest in all four heats of the event to score 37.35 and lead second-place Baylor by .75 points. Hawai‘i Pacific’s consistency in the acro event gave the Sea Warriors the event victory and tightened the gap with Azusa Pacific, which saw its lead over both teams drop to a half-point through two events.
“Our five-element acro (9.55) was very strong, and I thought the six-element (9.45) was also good,” head coach Colleen Kausrud said. “The way we performed in the seven-element (9.05) doesn’t usually happen to us. We have to be more consistent to improve in that event.”
The Cougars scored back-to-back 9.85s in the second and third heats of the pyramid event to extend its halftime lead over Baylor to six-tenths and HPU to seven-tenths of a point.
After halftime, Azusa Pacific opened up the lead even further by winning the toss and tumbling events. The Cougars’ third and final toss heat, which included Claire Dresselhaus along with Kirsten Ferramola, Katelynn McDougall, Triana Leal, and Ahnaliese Spitzer, scored a near-perfect 9.90 to push the lead through three events to eight-tenths of a point over Baylor and 1.6 points over HPU.
Led by Spitzer’s 9.925-point score in the aerial tumbling pass, which was followed by Jessica Laughton’s 9.90 score in the six element tumbling pass that followed, Azusa Pacific won five of six tumbling heats to take a 1.3-point lead over Baylor into the team event. However, the Cougars had been forced to make a second-half adjustment to its lineup for the final event to replace an injured competitor.
The adjustment cost Azusa Pacific in the team event, where the Cougars had to absorb some mandatory deductions from the 110-point starting value based on the adjustments to the routine that had to be made with the new lineup.
“We got deducted because we didn’t throw the full toss with a twist, and we don’t have anybody else who does that,” Kausrud said. “Our work is cut out for us in the next few weeks to figure out how to make the right changes to the team event.”
The Cougars still put together a season-best 98.85-point effort in the team event, but Baylor was even cleaner with a 100.42-point performance to come up with just enough to surge past Azusa Pacific for the surprising sweep.
“I told the team before we even got the scores that it didn’t matter, because they came together and looked strong,” Kausrud said. “I was glad to see them perform under that pressure, and it took a little of the sting out of such a close finish. This team will be ready to work hard, because we were anticipating a couple of wins tonight.”
The Cougars are back in action in three weeks, hosting defending NCATA national champion Oregon on Monday, April 7, at 6:30 p.m.
All 10 NCATA programs will visit Azusa Pacific in 2014, as the Cougars will host the 2014 NCATA National Championships from April 24-26.