AZUSA, Calif. –- When Azusa Pacific entered it’s home opener today, the Cougars had felt the wrath of a GSAC powerhouse only once this season. It was the NAIA’s then No. 2-ranked Fresno Pacific, and for an instant, it looked as if the Cougars were going to pull off the upset.
After the Sept. 12 NAIA Coaches Poll came out, Fresno Pacific jumped to No. 1 and the Cougars were left facing another No. 2 team -- Concordia. And to make matters more interesting, the Cougars are part of a 5-team lineup that contains Top Ten NAIA teams vying for second place in the GSAC.
In a two hour and eight minute match, Azusa Pacific again took the NAIA’s No. 2-ranked team to the limit and nearly pulled off the upset that would have rattled the NAIA rankings. Instead, Concordia rallied to beat Azusa Pacific 30-27, 28-30, 31-29, 21-30, 15-9, before nearly 300 people in the Felix Event Center.
After splitting the first 2 games, Azusa Pacific used the hard hitting of sophomore Jill Baker and freshman Chelsea Daley to assume a legitimate shot at an upset, moving to a 29-28 lead in game 3. That's when Concordia rallied back off a quick kill by senior Lindsey Campbell to tie the gameand then taking the lead off an ace by senior Ashley Robbins. Concordia went on to clinch game 3 off of another kill by junior Traci Weamer, putting the Eagles back on top.
Game 4 saw a different Cougar offense, though, and it kept them alive. Making fewer errors and more saves, APU had no trouble putting the Eagles down 30-21 to force a fifth game.
"I think the biggest difference in game 4 was our serving," said Cougar coach Chris Keife. "Every time we served, it was a pretty good serve. We would knock them out of their rhythm and that helped us a ton. When you knock a team back and they are left with a few options that helps an offense a lot."
However, serving and passing is what the Cougars lacked in game 5, costing them the match.
"Overall I thought we played well up until that fifth game," Keife said. “We just had too many errors in key moments in that fifth game. I told them it's a serving and passing game. Those are the things we did great in game 4 and those are the things we didn't do well in game 5."
Baker had another milestone night with 24 kills and freshman Chelsea Daley finished with a carer high 31 kills, all in the first 4 games and just 4 shy of Baker's single-match school record which she set just a few weeks ago against Southern Oregon.
"Chelsea and Jill did a great job," Keife said. "I was really happy with everyone out on the court. It was just the little things that kept us down today."
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 9-3 overall, 2-2 in the GSAC while Concordia improves to 11-1 overall, 3-1 in the GSAC.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Cougars, who stay at home to host No. 3-ranked California Baptist University Thursday (Sept. 20) at the Felix Event Center at 7 p.m.