RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s unbeaten start to the 2010 campaign was snapped at 12 matches after the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Cougars dropped the first 2 sets of a 4-set loss Thursday night in Riverside to No. 3-ranked California Baptist, which extended its own season-opening win streak to 14.
One of the chief culprits in the 25-17, 25-18, 21-25, 25-20 defeat was Azusa Pacific’s service reception struggles, as the Cougars surrendered a season-high 11 aces to the Lancers, including a match-high 5 from CBU junior MB Bree Rauschenbach.
The Cougar offense was also held to a season-low .127 attack percentage, and the 26 attack errors also marked a season-high for Azusa Pacific this year. California Baptist did what no other team had been able to do this year, which was to contain the Cougars’ season kills leader Whittany Radcliffe. The Lancers held Radcliffe to 11 kills, her second-lowest output of the year, and her 9 attack errors were a season-high. For just the second time this year, Radcliffe was not Azusa Pacific’s match leader in kills, with junior outside hitter Marguerite Hanna’s 13 kills pacing the Cougar attack.
With 12 straight non-conference victories to open the 2010 campaign, the Cougars tied the program’s season-opening win streak record, originally set in 1980 by the squad that would go on to win the NAIA’s first-ever volleyball national championship. However, the loss also extended a pair of Azusa Pacific losing streaks. The Cougars have now lost their last 7 visits to California Baptist, and they have lost their GSAC opener in 4 consecutive seasons.
Radcliffe had a pair of kills early in the opening set to help Azusa Pacific to an early 9-5 lead in the opening set, but a Rauschenbach kill sparked an 8-point turnaround that included 3 consecutive Rauschenbach aces. Her fourth ace of the set capped the 8-0 run, and after the Cougars closed to within a point at 17-16, it was the Lancers’ senior libero Kari Oliver who served back-to-back aces in a 7-0 run that all but sealed the opening-set win.
In the second set, juniors Ariel Beetstra and Krista Brenner stuffed an Ingrid Carmona attack to pull the Cougars to within a point, again trailing by a 17-16 score. However, California Baptist finished the set with an 8-2 run that included a pair of Carmona’s team-high 12 kills, giving the Lancers a commanding 2-set advantage.
Radcliffe and Hanna recorded 5 kills each to lead Azusa Pacific to a come-from-behind win in the third set. Trailing 19-15 and seemingly headed to a 3-set sweep, the Cougars stormed back with a 10-2 run that included a pair of Radcliffe kills to force a fourth set. California Baptist snapped an 18-18 tie in the fourth set with a 6-point sprint, this time behind a pair of aces on the serve of the Lancers’ junior opposite hitter Jessica Kalama. Azusa Pacific fought off a pair of match points before freshman setter Nevena Dragovic recorded the final kill to finish off the match.
Carmona led California Baptist with 12 kills and 5 blocks, and Rauschenbach added 10 kills for the Lancers. Kalama had 9 kills and a match-high 19 digs. The Cougars’ digs leader was junior libero Robin Portela, who tallied 15 digs.
While GSAC openers have not been kind to Azusa Pacific in recent years, the Cougars have answered each of the last 4 losses in openers with a victory in their second match. Up next for Azusa Pacific is Saturday’s 3 p.m. matchup with Westmont, which took California Baptist to 5 sets earlier this week.