AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Azusa Pacific gave top-ranked Fresno Pacific an early scare, but the Sunbirds closed out a narrow first-game win before cruising to a 30-28, 30-20, 30-23 sweep over the Cougars Tuesday night at the Felix Event Center.
Sophomore outside hitter Jill Baker tallied 8 kills in just 13 errorless attempts in the opening game, and her ace gave the Cougars a 27-26 lead late in the game. After a Fresno Pacific timeout, Fabiana Leomil and Marin Canaday recorded back-to-back kills to swing the lead back to the Sunbirds at 28-27. Junior setter Allison Kincheloe stuffed Canaday after a Cougar timeout to even the game at 28-28, but Fresno Pacific setter Shu Liu recorded a solo block of her own before setting up another Canaday kill to close out the first game with a 30-28 for the visiting Sunbirds.
Azusa Pacific combined for 14 kills, 24 digs and 3 blocks in the opening game, but the Cougars recorded only 6 kills while surrendering 17 combined points on attack and service errors in a 30-20 second-game defeat. Fresno Pacific jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the frame, but the Cougars pulled to within 3 points at 13-10 on back-to-back Kincheloe aces. However, the Sunbirds scored 10 of the game’s final 15 points to turn a 20-15 advantage into a 2-game match lead after the 10-point win.
In the third game, the Cougars kept the Sunbirds within reach, trailing by just a point at 14-13 after a Fresno Pacific attack error. However, it would be the Sunbirds’ final error of the match, as another Leomil kill sparked a 4-point run that gave Fresno Pacific an 18-13 advantage. The Sunbirds led by at least 3 points the rest of the way, sealing the match with a 30-23 victory in the third game.
Baker finished with a match-high 17 kills, but she was the only Cougar hitter in double-digits in kills. Senior libero Alison Pattison registered a team-high 12 digs for the Cougars, while junior middle blocker Kelsey Knudsen tallied a team-high 4 blocks.
Leomil led a balanced Fresno Pacific attack with 12 kills, while Canaday added 11 kills for the Sunbirds. The Sunbirds’ 6-foot-3 right side hitter, Thais Julio, playing in just her third match of the season after returning from an offseason injury, added 8 kills and 5 blocks off the bench for Fresno Pacific. Tiffany Marinos collected a match-high 26 digs, while Lisa Shilling finished with a match-high 7 blocks.
With the defeat, Azusa Pacific drops to 6-5 in GSAC play, 13-6 overall, while Fresno Pacific remains unbeaten in 11 conference matches and runs its overall record to a perfect 20-0. The Sunbirds have won 34 straight against Azusa Pacific, including 22 in a row in Azusa. The Cougars visit the NCAA Div. III’s No. 8-ranked La Verne on Friday, Oct. 12, before returning to conference play at home against Hope International next Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m.