AZUSA, Calif. -- Sophomore outside hitter Jill Baker registered a match-high 22 kills, but no other Cougars reached double figures in the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific’s 30-27, 30-26, 30-222 loss to No. 4-ranked Biola Tuesday night.
The result sealed the teams’ final GSAC standing with 1 match remaining, as Biola is locked into fourth and Azusa Pacific will claim the conference’s fifth-place spot. The squads are likely to face each other again next Tuesday night in the first round of the NAIA Region II Playoffs.
Baker has now collected 22 or more kills in 5 of Azusa Pacific’s past 7 matches, and she added 11 digs, her third straight match and 21st this season reaching double-digits defensively, as well. Only one other player for either team reached double figures in kills, as Jessica Buffum’s 10 kills led a balanced Eagle attack in which 6 players each finished with at least 5 kills.
Azusa Pacific never led in any of the 3 games of the match, starting with a 4-0 deficit in the opening game. Biola led by as many as 8 points at 23-15 before the Cougars twice stormed back to within a point late in the game at 27-26 and again at 28-27, but a pair of Buffum kills ended the opening game to give the Eagles a 1-game advantage with the 30-27 win.
Biola took the first 3 points of the second game and again led by an 8-point margin, this time at 20-12. Just as it had in the opening game, Azusa Pacific battled back to within a point at 26-25 after a Baker kill, but the Eagles blocked back-to-back Baker attacks before recording its final 2 points of the 30-26 win on a pair of Kristin Peterson’s 5 kills.
In the third and final game, Biola jumped out to a commanding 26-15 lead before a pair of Baker kills followed by an Eagle attack error cut the lead to 26-18 and forced a Biola timeout. Neither team scored more than 2 straight points the rest of the way, as Biola rolled to the 30-22 win that sealed the sweep.
Senior libero Alison Pattison finished with a match-high 16 digs for the Cougars, while junior setter Allison Kincheloe added 12 digs to go with 45 assists. Kincheloe served 3 straight aces late in the first game.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 11-8 in GSAC play, 20-9 overall, while Biola improves to 14-5 GSAC, 27-6 overall. The Cougars wrap up the regular season when they visit No. 16-ranked Vanguard Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Costa Mesa.