AZUSA, Calif. -- The NAIA's No. 16-ranked Azusa Pacific took a decisive 3-set sweep over No. 13-ranked Point Loma Nazarene Saturday night in the Felix Event Center. With Fresno Pacific sitting undefeated on top and a 4-way second-place tie in the Golden State Athletic Conference, the victory upped the Cougars to 5-3 in GSAC play, just 1 game off the pace of the conference's upper echelon.
Azusa Pacific established itself early in the opening set, taking a 7-3 lead, scoring 5 of the 7 points on kills. Point Loma Nazarene responded with a 15-7 run to take an 18-14 lead, but the Cougars reeled off the next 7 points to regain the lead and take a 25-22 opening-set victory.
Azusa Pacific never relinquished control of the lead in points after an 18-18 tie in the opening set, and the Cougars registered 25-15 and 25-18 scores in the 2 remaining sets. The Azusa Pacific offense garnered 46 kills with just 12 errors, good for a .333 attack percentage for the match.
"We found a good rhythm," said junior outside hitter Jill Baker, who led the Cougars with a match-high 16 kills. "We were passing well which set up our offense, and we were blocking well which set up our defense. All of the components were working well tonight."
Freshman middle blocker Ariel Beetstra had not committed an attack error in 4 straight matches coming into tonight and was able to extend her stretch of 42 errorless attempts into the second set. Despite registering only 3 kills, Beetstra had a hand in 5 of the Cougars’ 13 team blocks.
"We're (one of many teams) in the mix in the GSAC, and we had an opportunity to play one of the mid-range teams tonight," Cougar head coach Chris Keife said. "We played No. 1, 2 and 3 already, and when you go against those teams, you're not always going to be successful. I know we can compete with any of those teams on a given day. Tonight, we were able to flip the tide and we played pretty well."
Azusa Pacific's first victory this season over a nationally-ranked GSAC opponent improves the Cougars to 15-5 overall, 5-3 GSAC, while Point Loma Nazarene drops to 11-5 overall, 3-5 GSAC. The Cougars host the NAIA's No. 4-ranked Biola on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 7:00 p.m.