AZUSA, Calif. -- Every streak comes to an end, and Azusa Pacific picked the perfect time to end the University of Oregon’s national-record 31-meet winning streak. The Cougars snapped the longest winning streak in the four-year history of the National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) by edging the Ducks by a margin of less than a point on Senior Night at the Felix Event Center.
The Cougars took a slim lead of just one-eighth of a point into the Team Event, which carried a starting value of 110 points for both teams, and they answered Oregon’s 98.15-point effort with a season-best 98.95-point performance to hang on for the dramatic victory.
“It took a lot of mental strength to get this win,” Azusa Pacific head coach Colleen Kausrud said. “We felt like David going up against Goliath, but the team stepped up with mental toughness and confidence. The few mistakes that happened in the team event were surprising because of that confidence, but to end up getting a win like this is huge for us.”
All six events were decided by less than a point, and Azusa Pacific held the lead from start to finish after winning the opening event by five-hundredths of a point. The Cougars’ halftime lead was six-tenths of a point, which Oregon chipped down to .25 after the toss event before cutting that margin in half with a slight advantage in tumbling. Azusa Pacific’s largest lead of the meet was the final margin of .925, and all the teams were within a half-point of each other in all five events before the Cougars pushed ahead at the end in the team event.
Oregon registered two perfect 10 heats in the meet, starting early with a 10.0 in the compulsory event’s pyramid heat before scoring 10.0 on Nicole Erlichman’s six-element tumbling pass. Azusa Pacific got its first perfect 10 of the year from sophomore Ahnaliese Spitzer with her aerial tumbling pass.
“Ahna works as hard as anybody on tumbling because she wants to get it perfect,” Kausrud said. “She studies it and makes corrections for when she goes back and does it again, and that’s the kind of mental strength that gave us a big lift tonight.”
In addition, the Cougars had six other heats which earned scores of 9.90 or better, including a 9.90 from senior Jessica Laughton in the six-element tumbling pass and a 9.95 on sophomore Jamie Montgomery’s open tumbling pass.
“Around halftime, I thought it would come down to the team event, because I know we are strong in tumbling,” Kausrud said. “I was actually surprised we lost in tumbling because I felt that we were very strong, but we have one heat with a lower starting value which we’ll have to address before nationals.”
Laughton was one of four Azusa Pacific seniors who participated in a pre-meet Senior Day ceremony honoring the Cougars’ first set of four-year seniors to compete all four years in NCATA competition. Although Monday’s meet was their last regular-season meet at home, Azusa Pacific will return to the Felix Event Center April 24-26 as the championship host of the 2014 NCATA National Championships.
The Cougars were also near-perfect in the pyramid event, scoring 9.90 in two of the three heats and 9.85 in the other to turn a lead of .05 into the halftime margin of .60. Azusa Pacific scored 9.95 in the compulsory pyramid heat and added a 9.90 score in the compulsory toss.
The win was Azusa Pacific’s first-ever in eight meets against Oregon, whose only other defeat in NCATA competition was a 1.55-point loss on the road against the University of Maryland in 2011. Since then, the Ducks had won three in a row to close out 2011 with the inaugural NCATA national title before repeating as national champions in 2012 (11-0) and 2013 (8-0) before this year’s perfect 9-0 start.
“We can’t afford to get complacent at this point in the year,” Kausrud said. “We have plenty of things we need to fix, and the way the team event finished, our team knows we could have lost just as easily as we won. This time it went our way, which was a welcome surprise, and I think the team will continue to do what it takes to keep improving.”
The Cougars improved to 4-2 on the season, avenging an earlier loss on the road to the Ducks in which Oregon led by just six-tenths of a point heading into the team event. Azusa Pacific wraps up the regular season on Saturday, April 12, with a visit to Baylor, which is the team responsible for the Cougars’ other setback this year.