EL CAJON, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 16-ranked Azusa Pacific held its ground in the Golden State Athletic Conference standings Tuesday night, needing just 74 minutes to post a 25-16, 26-24, 25-19 road sweep over San Diego Christian. The victory pulled the Cougars to within 1 game of the 3-team deadlock for third place in the conference, with Biola and California Baptist losses dropping both squads into a tie with Concordia at 5-2 in GSAC play, 1 game ahead of Azusa Pacific’s 4-3 mark.
Junior outside hitter Jill Baker recorded 8 kills in 8 attempts in the opening set, the last 2 helping the Cougars cap a 9-2 run that finished off a 25-16 opening-set win.
“We got off to a great start with a good first set,” said Cougar head coach Chris Keife, who gave Baker, Azusa Pacific’s season kills leader, the rest of the night off. “It was nice to be able to give some of our players an opportunity to compete out there and help us get a good result.”
In the second set, San Diego Christian jumped out to an early 7-1 lead and did not surrender the lead while forcing set point at 24-22. Senior right side hitter Megan Burch’s kill sparked a 4-point rally, and she and freshman middle blocker Amy Alkazin put up the set-clinching block that gave Azusa Pacific the 26-24 win and a 2-set advantage in the match.
After falling behind by a 4-2 margin in the third set, senior right side hitter Kelsey Knudsen’s kill was followed by a block from freshman tandem Marguerite Hanna and Ariel Beetstra to even the score at 4-4. Their block was the first of 6 blocks in the set that helped Azusa Pacific to a lead it would not relinquish in a 25-19 win that completed the sweep.
Baker remained the match kills leader with 8, while Beetstra finished with 6 kills in 8 errorless attempts. Seven different Cougars finished with at least 4 kills, and Hanna tallied 2 of the Cougars’ 4 service aces. Freshman libero Robin Portela posted a match-high 11 digs, and Beetstra and Alkazin registered a match-high with 5 blocks each.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 14-5 overall, 4-3 GSAC, while San Diego Christian drops to 3-15 overall, 0-7 GSAC. The Cougars host the GSAC’s other San Diego County representative, No. 13-ranked Point Loma Nazarene, on Saturday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.