COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Junior outside hitter Jill Baker recorded 11 of her match-high 21 kills in a come-from-behind fourth-set win that sealed a 25-20, 25-18, 13-25, 32-30 victory for the NAIA’s No. 13-ranked Azusa Pacific over No. 8-ranked Vanguard Saturday night.
Baker, who set the Cougar single-match kills record with 37 kills in last year’s 5-set road win at Vanguard, helped Azusa Pacific fight off the third of 4 set points that would have forced a tie-breaking fifth set. After freshman middle blocker Amy Alkazin evened the set at 30-30 with her ninth kill of the match, the Cougars went to Baker for back-to-back kills for a 3-point swing to clinch the set and match.
The victory lifts Azusa Pacific to 16-6 overall and 6-4 in GSAC play, and at the halfway point of the 20-match conference schedule, the Cougars now sit tied for fifth place in the GSAC standings with Vanguard. The Lions, who posted early upset victories over a pair of teams ranked in the top 5 of the NAIA rankings at the time, Point Loma Nazarene and Concordia, have now dropped 3 straight to fall to 11-4 overall, 6-4 GSAC.
Sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Daley added 13 kills and 10 digs, and she tallied 8 kills, a solo block and a service ace in the opening 2 sets to lead Azusa Pacific to a 2-0 lead in the match with 25-20 and 25-18 set victories. Freshman libero Robin Portela posted a match-high 17 digs, including 6 in the final set, to lead the Cougar defense, and Azusa Pacific’s passing was error-free through the entire first 2 sets before Vanguard recorded its first ace in the Lions’ 25-13 third-set win.
With the Cougars leading by a slim 2-point margin at 19-17 in the opening set, senior setter Allison Kincheloe served back-to-back aces to help spark a 6-3 run that completed a 25-20 win, and she aced the Lions again with her first serve of the second set. The Cougars snapped a 10-10 deadlock in the set with a 4-point burst that included a pair of Daley kills, and Azusa Pacific led by at least 4 points the rest of the way in a 25-18 win.
Vanguard bounced back in the third set, using a 21-7 run to turn a 6-4 deficit into a runaway 25-13 win. Jessica Roy and Jamie Heenan had 4 kills apiece in the set for the Lions, who led the fourth set by a 14-11 margin before surrendering a 12-5 run that gave the Cougars a late 23-19 lead. Vanguard fought off 4 match points after that point before Azusa Pacific’s final 3-point run sealed the match.
The Cougars open up the second half of conference play with a visit to 8-time defending GSAC champion Fresno Pacific on Tuesday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m.