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Cruisin' Cougars

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November 4, 2008
Gary Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. -- No slips. No let-downs. No problem.

The NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Azusa Pacific refused to look past San Diego Christian College and into the sharp teeth of the remaining 3 matches of the regular season. No, the Cougars were as sharp as could be and rolled to a 25-16, 25-17, 25-17 Golden State Athletic Conference victory Tuesday evening at the Felix Event Center in a match that required just 63 minutes of play.

The Cougars, who are playing their best volleyball of the season, trailed just twice in the entire match while cruising to their 18th straight victory over San Diego Christian. Five different Cougars recorded 5 or more kills, leading an offense that managed a .415 attack clip while committing just 6 errors in 82 attempts.

“We met all of our goals for this match tonight,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Chris Keife. “We wanted to play with energy, play with pride and be disciplined in our effort. This is the type of match where a team can be sluggish and make it harder than it needs to be, but we did a good job of meeting our goals tonight.”

Senior Megan Burch led the Cougars with 10 kills in just 15 attempts with no errors. She registered 5 kills in game 3, helping Azusa Pacific rally from a modest 2-point deficit at 12-10 following a 6-2 Hawk run.

“We fed the beast tonight,” said Keife with a wry smile. “We had players relaying information from the bench to the floor and vice versa all night and the communication really helped us. They figured out who was hot and they kept going to Megan.”

“What helped me so much tonight was Kelsey (Knudsen), who I rotate with, talking to me about lines and angles that were available to me on my attacks. When you make a few kills in the beginning of the game, it carries you through the match.”

Sophomore Chelsea Daley added 7 kills, while freshmen Ariel Beetstra and Amy Alkazin each tallied 6 kills, Beetstra in 9 attempts and Alkazin in just 7.

“Ariel kept drawing their middle blocker which allowed me to have a lot of one-on-one hits,” said Burch. “The game is so much easier when you don’t have to hit into double blocks.”

All-American Jill Baker recorded all 4 of her kills in the first match and then sat out the final half of play, allowing freshman Marguerite Hanna to play in her stead and display her powerful offensive attack.

The Cougars now turn their attention toward No. 14-ranked Point Loma Nazarene University, No. 2 Biola University and No. 16 Vanguard University, all who stand in the Cougars’ way of securing an automatic berth into the NAIA Championship Tournament. Azusa Pacific visits Point Loma (Nov. 8) and Biola (Nov. 11) before returning home to host Vanguard (Nov. 14) to close out the regular season.

“We’re playing really well right now, we’re on the upslope,” said Keife. “We’re looking forward to the next 2 matches. We seem to like being in a hostile environment. It helps our focus.”

With tonight’s victory, Azusa Pacific improves to 21-8 overall, 11-6 in the GSAC. San Diego Christian fall s to 5-24 overall, 11-6 in the GSAC.