SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- It wasn’t Azusa Pacific’s sharpest effort of the season, but the NAIA’s No. 9-ranked Cougars got the result they wanted, a 25-22, 17-25, 25-21, 25-22 road win over Westmont Tuesday evening.
Freshman middle blocker Amy Alkazin led Azusa Pacific’s best blocking effort of the season on a night when the Cougar offense was off its game, as evidenced by its .190 attack percentage and its 9 service errors. Alkazin, however, posted a season-high 8 blocks (4 solo, 4 assist) and added 11 kills on 20 attempts for a .400 attack percentage. Fellow freshman middle blocker Ariel Beetstra added 7 assist blocks, as the Cougars posted a season-high 16 blocks in the match.
The Cougars trailed, 18-17, in the opening set, but a pair of 3-point runs late in the set helped clinch a 25-22 win. Westmont never trailed in its 25-17 second-set win, bringing the match even at 1 set apiece heading into the third set, where Alkazin was virtually flawless. She recorded kills on all 5 of her attack attempts and also registered a pair of solo blocks. She opened the set with a kill and a block, sparking a 5-0 run to start the set, and the Cougars led throughout the 25-21 third-set win.
Senior right side hitter Megan Burch snapped a 9-9 tie in the fourth set, giving Azusa Pacific the lead for good, and the Cougar lead fluctuated from 2 to 4 points the remainder of the set until Westmont cut the lead to 23-22 late in the set. Junior outside hitter Jill Baker answered with the last of her match-high 13 kills, and Beetstra and Burch teamed up for the match-clinching block to seal the 25-22 win.
Freshman libero Robin Portela notched a match-high 16 digs, and Burch and sophomore outside hitter Chelsea Daley tallied 6 kills apiece. Senior setter Allison Kincheloe served a match-high 3 of Azusa Pacific’s 4 aces and collected 28 assists.
With the win, Azusa Pacific is 1 victory away from posting 5 consecutive 20-win campaigns for the first time in program history. The Cougars are 19-8 overall and 9-6 in GSAC play. Westmont drops to 9-17 overall, 3-12 GSAC. Azusa Pacific hosts California Baptist on Thursday, Oct. 30, with the winner moving into fourth place in the GSAC standings heading into the final 2 weeks of the regular season.