LA VERNE, Calif. -- Any type of break from the brutal stretch that is the 20-match Golden State Athletic Conference schedule should be welcomed, but Azusa Pacific’s Friday night visit to non-conference neighbor La Verne wasn’t much of a breather. The NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Cougars posted a 4-game win over La Verne, ranked No. 8 in NCAA Div. III, 30-28, 28-30, 30-27, 30-17.
Sophomore outside hitter Jill Baker posted a match-high 29 kills, and she was the only Cougar to reach double figures in kills, and she added 11 digs and a team-high 4 blocks for an Azusa Pacific squad that generated 26 more attacks than the host Leopards in the 4-game match.
The performance was Baker’s fourth match of 29 kills or more, although 2 of them came in 5-game matches, and it was her ninth 20-kill effort of the season. It was also the 15th time this year that she registered double-digits in both kills and digs.
Junior middle blocker Kelsey Knudsen and sophomore middle blocker Briana Sardo combined for 16 kills in just 29 attempts, collecting 8 kills and 3 blocks apiece. Freshman outside hitter Leanne Stennett served a match-high 3 aces, and junior setter Allison Kincheloe added a pair of aces to go with her 54 assists.
La Verne, the current leader of the NCAA Div. III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, was led by 12-kill performances from Brianna Gonzales and Jodi Lindsay, but the rest of the Leopards combined for just 17 additional kills. La Verne came up with 15 blocks, led by Tiona Hobson’s 8 off the bench, and libero Katherine Randall collected a match-high 19 digs.
Azusa Pacific moved up to No. 5 in this week’s NAIA Coaches Poll, allowing the GSAC to become the first conference in NAIA history to sweep the top 5 spots in the national rankings. Behind top-ranked Fresno Pacific, No. 2-ranked California Baptist, No. 3-ranked Concordia and No. 4-ranked Biola, the Cougars are followed closely in the national coaches poll by No. 10-ranked Point Loma Nazarene and No. 15-ranked Vanguard. With Westmont receiving votes this week, 8 of the GSAC’s 11 teams are currently receiving votes in the poll.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 14-6 overall, and the Cougars have Saturday off while the GSAC’s other 10 teams take the court in conference action. Azusa Pacific hosts Hope International Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. La Verne, which is unbeaten through 9 matches in SCIAC play, drops to 17-5 overall.