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Cougars Paint Masterpiece

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September 13, 2008
Joe Reinsch
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SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- Junior outside hitter Jill Baker spearheaded one of Azusa Pacific’s best all-around efforts of the season Saturday night, registering match-highs of 11 kills and 12 digs in the NAIA’s No. 16-ranked Cougars’ 25-10, 25-11, 25-15 sweep at The Master’s Saturday night.

Azusa Pacific tallied a season-high 11 team assist blocks and committed the second-fewest service errors in a match, missing just 5 serves to go with 4 aces. However, it was the Cougar passing game that set the tone, with the defense going an entire match without surrendering a service ace for the first time in Golden State Athletic Conference play since 2005.

Baker was also the team’s passing leader, receiving 10 serves without an error, and freshman libero Robin Portela was perfect in 6 service receptions and added 9 digs. Freshman middle blocker Ariel Beetstra and senior right side hitter Megan Burch teamed up for 7 of the Cougars’ 11 team blocks, and Beetstra was in on 2 more for a team season-high 9 blocks in the match. Burch had a hand in one additional block for a career-high 8 blocks.

Azusa Pacific jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the opening set, dropping the first point of the set for its only deficit of the entire match. After Rachel Roleder’s kill pulled The Master’s to within 9-4, the Cougars used an 8-2 run to take a 17-6 lead and cruised in for the 25-10 win. In the second set, 4 straight Azusa Pacific kills sparked a 14-4 set-ending run that turned a competitive 11-7 margin into a 25-11 win. The Cougars burst out to a 14-4 advantage to start the third set and preserved the 10-point lead for the 25-15 victory to complete the sweep.

Senior setter Allison Kincheloe recorded 11 digs, her third double-digit effort this season, to go with her match-high 19 assists. She also had 1 of Azusa Pacific’s 4 aces, with sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Daley, sophomore defensive specialist Julia Wehsener and freshman middle blocker Amy Alkazin serving the other 3.

The victory evens Azusa Pacific’s conference record at 1-1, while the Cougars improve to 11-3 overall heading into the second week of conference play. Azusa Pacific hosts Hope International on Tuesday, Sept. 16 before a Saturday, Sept. 20 clash with the NAIA’s No. 3-ranked Concordia in Irvine. The Master’s, which lost in 5 sets to No. 2-ranked California Baptist earlier this week, drops to 6-4 overall, 0-2 GSAC.