AZUSA, Calif. -- After 3 strong victories to open the season, the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific suffered a 3-set sweep, 25-20, 25-22, 25-22, to unranked Great Falls (Mont.) Saturday afternoon in the final match of the Cougar Classic. The Cougars posted a sweep over Eastern Oregon earlier in the day to run its season-opening win streak to 3 before the afternoon loss.
In the 25-13, 25-16, 25-16 win over Eastern Oregon, Azusa Pacific posted its highest single-match attack percentage since the sixth contest of the 2007 campaign. The Cougars converted at a .381 clip, registering 49 kills with 9 errors in 105 attempts.
However, Great Falls took away some of Azusa Pacific’s offensive rhythm in the opening game, digging 14 Cougar attacks in the opening set for a surprising 5-point win. Argonauts libero Kari Schiller had 5 of her match-high 17 digs in the opening set, and the momentum swing seemingly rattled the Cougars into the giveaway of 6 points due to service errors. A Chelsea Daley kill cut the Great Falls lead to 20-19, but the Argonauts scored 5 of the next 6 points to take the one-set lead.
Azusa Pacific seemingly recovered, trailing only once by a single point all the way to a 19-16 lead. However, Great Falls answered with a 9-3 run, coming from behind to take a 25-22 set win behind an offense that registered 14 kills to just 2 errors in the set. Marissa Stanchfield led the way with 5 kills in 9 errorless attempts in the set for the Argonauts, and she finished with a match-high 13 kills.
In the final set, Azusa Pacific served its first 2 aces of the match, but Great Falls kept the Cougar offense off-balance, notching 22 digs and blocking 7 attacks in another 25-22 set victory. Schiller had 8 digs in the set, and Jodi Miller was in on 6 of the Argonauts’ 8 blocks. Azusa Pacific led by as many as 5 points, taking a 17-12 lead, but the Cougars could not string together any consecutive points the rest of the way. Great Falls rallied for the win with a 13-5 run, registering 3 blocks in the final run. The Argonauts went the final 28 points without committing an attack error to close out the match.
Freshman middle blocker Amy Alkazin tallied a team-high 12 kills in just 20 attempts, adding 1 of her team’s 2 aces to go with a team-high 3 blocks. Junior outside hitter Jill Baker also finished with 12 kills, adding a team-high 14 digs.
Azusa Pacific’s opening match of the day against Eastern Oregon featured another strong offensive performance from the outside, where Baker (17 kills) and Daley (11 kills) combined for a .350 hitting percentage. Alkazin turned in yet another solid performance in the middle, tallying 10 kills in 17 attempts to go with 3 blocks and a service ace.
The Cougars scored the first 5 points in each of the first 2 sets and only trailed twice in the match, both times in the third set. Alkazin compiled 9 kills without an error in 14 attempts over the first 2 sets to fuel Azusa Pacific’s offense.
Eastern Oregon held a short-lived 1-point lead at 7-6, then led for a 7-point stretch during which its largest margin was 2 points at 13-11. An Eastern Oregon attack error gave Azusa Pacific the first of 6 consecutive points, sparking a 14-3 run that sealed the match-clinching third set.
COUGAR CLASSIC DAY 2 SCORES
Biola d. Indiana Wesleyan 25-23, 25-17, 22-25, 25-15
The Master's d. Daemen (N.Y.) 25-14, 21-25, 25-7, 25-19
California Baptist d. Great Falls 25-18, 25-19, 25-20
Azusa Pacific d. Eastern Oregon 25-13, 25-16, 25-16
The Master's d. Indiana Wesleyan 25-22, 25-23, 21-25, 23-25, 15-13
Biola d. Daemen (N.Y.) 25-8, 25-11, 25-11
Great Falls d. Azusa Pacific 25-20, 25-22, 25-22
California Baptist d. Eastern Oregon 25-19, 25-16, 25-16
COUGAR CLASSIC ALL-TOURNAMENT HONORS
COUGAR CLASSIC MVP: Fei Shi (California Baptist)
COUGAR CLASSIC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Jill Baker (Azusa Pacific)
Jessica Buffum (Biola)
Grace Deboodt (Eastern Oregon)
Noelle Dyk (California Baptist)
Rebekah Reichard (Indiana Wesleyan)
Meghan Warkentin (Biola)