With today’s announcement from the NAIA national office that the Cougar women’s volleyball team has earned a berth into the NAIA Championship Tournament, Azusa Pacific becomes the first school in association history to place a team in all 6 NAIA fall sports championship tournaments in the same year.
The Cougar football, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country teams all competed in their respective national championship tournament this past weekend. Men’s cross country finished fifth in the nation while the women’s squad was 18th. Women’s soccer advanced to the NAIA “Elite Eight” and football, though it fell in the first round last night, was still 1 of 16 teams to make the NAIA gridiron playoffs.
Men’s soccer is still playing and has advanced into the NAIA semifinals for the first time in program history. The Cougars meet Hastings (Neb.) Monday evening in Daytona Beach, Fla., for a shot at Tuesday’s title game.
Now women’s volleyball, which won the first-ever NAIA championship in 1980, is back in the national championship tournament for the first time since 2000 and the fourth time in program history. The Cougars, who are 24-9, are 1 of 20 teams that open the 4-day championship tournament Nov. 30 at Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego.
Many schools, including Azusa Pacific, have placed at least 5 teams into the NAIA’s fall postseason play in the same season, but none had ever been represented in all 6 possible championships.
“This puts a little strain on our travel budget,” said a smiling Azusa Pacific Director of Athletics Bill Odell, “but this is a good stretch of our finances. Our coaches have done a great job of recruiting and teaching, and they all are deserving of postseason play.”
Azusa Pacific captured the 2005 Directors’ Cup, recognizing it as the top athletics program in the NAIA last year. Though fall standings won’t be released for another 2 weeks, Azusa Pacific has a great jump from the gate for the 2006 crown.
“This is an exciting time for us,” said Odell. “Much of our athletic success is a result of student-athletes and their parents finding a very attractive, overall product at Azusa Pacific. It’s where families, including those of our student-athletes, want their children growing and learning.”
The good times seemingly won’t end with this fall’s play. Azusa Pacific currently has the NAIA’s No. 1-ranked men’s basketball team and the women’s team is ranked No. 12.