LA MIRADA, Calif. -- Despite a nearly-unstoppable performance in the opening game, the NAIA’s No. 8-ranked Azusa Pacific dropped the next 2 games and came up just short in its bid to force a fifth game for the fifth time this season against a team ranked in the NAIA’s top 10, dropping a 4-game decision at No. 5-ranked Biola, 17-30, 30-17, 30-23, 30-28, Tuesday night.
The defeat comes just 3 days after Azusa Pacific rallied from 2 games down facing a 23-17 deficit in the third game to post a 5-game victory at No. 7-ranked Point Loma Nazarene. Biola was Azusa Pacific’s fourth opponent in the past 6 games ranked in the top 7 of the NAIA.
“Every night in this conference, you’re playing someone really good, and you’ve just got to be on your game for however long the match is going to go,” said Cougar head coach Chris Keife. “We’re a young team, but at the same time, we have to be a little more consistent with our play. The more consistent teams are the ones who are continuing to be successful in all aspects of the game.”
After falling behind 8-5 in the opening game, the Cougars finished the game on a 25-9 run, posting a .405 hitting percentage to go with 3 aces in the first game. However, the Cougars opened up the second game with 3 straight attack errors, spotting Biola a lead it would not relinquish en route to a 30-17 Eagle win that tied the match at 1 game apiece.
“I thought we played very well in Game 1 – it was one of our better games of the entire season,” said Keife. “The other 3 games we waited for Biola to come out how they started in Game 1, but they came out more aggressive, and that kind of shook us and rattled us a little bit.”
The third game was tied at 14 times up to a 16-16 deadlock, until the Eagles reeled off 4 straight points to take a 20-16 lead and led by at least 3 points the rest of the way in a 30-23 win.
Just as it did 2 games prior, Azusa Pacific again spotted the Eagles a 3-0 lead, but this time the Cougars scored 7 of the next 8 points to take a 3-point lead of its own at 7-4. However, with the Cougars leading 14-12 after a Jill Baker service ace, Biola regained its momentum, taking advantage of 5 Azusa Pacific errors in a 6-point run that gave the Eagles an 18-14 lead.
After back-to-back Cougar attack errors that put Biola within 2 points of clinching the match with a 28-23 advantage, Brianne Huff’s 10th kill of the match capped a 5-point run that tied the game at 28-28. Biola answered with a kill, and on Biola’s match point, Kelsey Knudsen was whistled for a net violation on an attack that would have resulted in a kill and tied the game at 29-29. Instead, Biola escaped with the 30-28 win and claimed the 4-game win.
Azusa Pacific committed 15 service errors in the match, and registered an .086 hitting percentage after its outstanding opening-game performance. Three different Cougars registered double-digits in kills, led by Chelsea Daley’s team-high 13 kills. Baker added 12 kills, and Huff finished with 10 kills. Knudsen registered 7 kills and a match-high 8 blocks for the Cougars.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 12-5 on the season, 5-4 in GSAC play, while Biola improves to 15-2 overall, 8-2 in conference play. The Cougars wrap up the first half of the conference schedule when they host No. 16-ranked Vanguard Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at the Felix Event Center.