FRESNO, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific got off to a shaky start before settling in, but the NAIA’s No. 10-ranked Cougars were unable to avoid a sweep at the hands of top-ranked Fresno Pacific, suffering a 25-11, 25-21, 25-23 defeat to the 8-time defending GSAC champion Sunbirds Tuesday night.
Junior outside hitter Jill Baker registered a match-high 12 kills and added 10 digs to lead Azusa Pacific, which had won 4 of its past 5 including wins over a pair of programs ranked in the NAIA top 15, Point Loma Nazarene and Vanguard.
In the opening set, sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Daley’s back-to-back kills preceded a Baker kill that pulled the Cougars to within 13-10. Fresno Pacific responded with 7 straight points, part of a 12-1 run to claim the first set of the match.
Azusa Pacific led midway through a second set that featured 10 tie scores, but a 4-point Fresno Pacific run snapped a 16-16 tie to give the Sunbirds the lead for good in a 25-21 second-set victory. Freshman middle blocker Ariel Beetstra tallied 4 kills in 5 attempts in the set, part of her 7-kill effort.
Trailing 21-14 in the third set, the Cougars rallied to tie the set at 23-23 with a 9-2 run that featured a pair of Marguerite Hanna kills and 2 of senior right side hitter Kelsey Knudsen’s team-high 3 blocks. However, the Sunbirds put the match away with consecutive kills for the 25-23 win.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 16-7 overall, 6-5 GSAC, while Fresno Pacific remains perfect on the season at 19-0 and remains a perfect 11-0 in GSAC play. The Cougars continue the second half of conference play when they host The Master’s on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m.