IRVINE, Calif. -- A balanced offense along with a breakout performance from one of its talented freshmen helped the NAIA’s No. 5-ranked Azusa Pacific sweep its final 2 matches at the Crowne Plaza Labor Day Invitational Saturday afternoon at Concordia University.
At least 4 different players registered double-digit attack attempts in each of the Cougar victories, a 25-14, 25-14, 25-17 sweep over College of St. Mary (Neb.) followed by a 25-21, 25-18, 27-25 win over Jamestown (N.D.).
Freshman middle blocker Amy Alkazin continued her solid all-around play with 13 total kills to go with an ace and 2 blocks in each contest, but fellow frosh middle blocker Ariel Beetstra hit at a blistering .636 clip on the day. Beetstra tallied 6 kills with no errors in 9 attempts in the opening win over St. Mary, then registered a season-high 9 kills against just 1 error in 13 attempts in the Jamestown sweep. She also collected 7 blocks on the afternoon, including a season-high 5 blocks against Jamestown.
The Cougars trailed 7-6 in the opening set against St. Mary, then reeled off 5 straight points to take control of the set, part of a 19-7 run that closed out a 25-14 opening-set victory. Azusa Pacific never trailed again in the match, cruising to an identical 25-14 second-set score before closing out the match with a 25-17 third-set win. The Cougar offense scored 35 of its 50 points on kills in the first 2 sets, committing just 4 total errors prior to the third set.
Sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Daley posted 12 kills with a .440 attack percentage, committing only 1 error in 25 attempts. Senior right side hitter Megan Burch added 7 kills and a team-high 3 blocks.
Junior outside hitter Jill Baker was the Cougars’ kill leader in the win over Jamestown, recording 7 of her match-high 12 kills in a 25-18 second-set victory. Azusa Pacific trailed 16-15 in the opening set before using a 5-point run to spark a 25-21 opening-set win. The Cougars overcame a 6-point deficit in the second set, using another 5-point run to erase most of Jamestown’s 13-7 lead. After giving up a kill to fall behind 14-12, senior middle blocker Kelsey Knudsen’s kill sparked a 4-point rally for a 16-14 lead. The Cougars never trailed again in the set, finishing with an 18-5 run.
Jamestown had set point at 24-23 in the third set to potentially force an extra set, but a Beetstra kill was followed by Baker’s solo block to swing the lead back into the Cougars’ favor. A mishandled set tied the set at 25-25, but Baker and Beetstra delivered the 3-set sweep with back-to-back kills.
Azusa Pacific ties its season-long winning streak at 3 matches, improving to 6-2 on the year heading into next weekend’s 4-match swing to Montana. The Cougars play 2 matches Friday, Sept. 5 at University of Great Falls, followed by a pair of matches Saturday, Sept. 6 at Carroll College in Helena.