AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific waited until it dropped a set to Hope International before playing its best volleyball of the evening, but a third-set defeat to the upset-minded Royals snapped the NAIA’s No. 16-ranked Cougars from their doldrums in a 25-21, 25-21, 19-25, 25-11 victory Tuesday night.
For the first 2 sets, the Azusa Pacific offense overshadowed its shaky serving game, posting identical 25-21 wins despite giving 10 of Hope International’s points on service errors. The Cougars converted 72 attacks in the opening 2 sets at a .403 clip, registering 35 kills to just 6 errors.
However, the absence of the rest of Azusa Pacific’s game resulted in a 25-19 third-set defeat, when the Cougars surrendered 15 points to Hope International on errors alone. The once-efficient offense committed 7 attack errors, the setters were whistled for 2 ball-handling errors, serve receive gave up 3 points on aces due to reception errors and the Cougars committed 3 service errors in the set.
With the score tied at 3-3 in the fourth set, Azusa Pacific reeled off 14 of the next 17 points to take a commanding 17-6 lead. After surrendering Hope International’s only back-to-back points in the set to trim the margin to 17-8, the Cougars finished off the match with an 8-3 run capped by freshman setter Raechel Jones’ ace followed by a match-point tandem block put up by freshman middle blocker Ariel Beetstra and senior right side hitter Megan Burch.
Burch was a perfect 3-for-3 on attack attempts in the fourth game, and she finished with a team-high 12 kills in 16 errorless attempts in the match. Junior outside hitter Jill Baker registered 6 kills without an error in 8 fourth-set attempts, finishing with 11 kills in the match. Sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Daley added 10 kills for the Cougars’ balanced offense, which gave 10 or more attempts to 7 different players.
Beetstra and senior Kelsey Knudsen provided reliable offensive production from the middle, each committing just 1 error while combining for 17 kills in 28 total attempts. Beetstra added a match-high 3 blocks to go with her 8-kill effort. Freshman middle blocker Amy Alkazin served a match-high 3 aces to go with 8 kills and 1 block.
Hope International was led by freshman outside hitter Naomi Iosia’s match-high 16 kills, while sophomore libero Jocelyn Moya posted a match-high 24 digs.
Azusa Pacific’s win, its ninth straight against Hope International, improved its early Golden State Athletic Conference record to 2-1, and the Cougars are now 12-3 overall heading into Saturday’s visit to the NAIA’s No. 3-ranked Concordia. The Royals dropped to 1-2 GSAC, 4-5 overall.