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Cougars Go Radically Different

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September 11, 2010
Gary Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Junior Whittany Radcliffe recorded career-high 25 kills, including one that turned the match, to lead the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Azusa Pacific to 4-set victory over GSAC rival Westmont. The Cougar won by scores of 25-23, 23-25, 32-30, 25-21.

Emerging as the new leader of the team, Radcliffe accounted for 10 of Azusa Pacific’s 18 kills in an extended and decisive third set in which the Cougars fought off 5 set points, scoring the final 3 points, 2 of which came off Radcliffe kills including the set winner.

“She was super when we needed her to be,” said Azusa Pacific coach Chris Keife of Radcliffe. “When we needed a point Whittany found a way to get it done for us.”

Azusa Pacific, which has been quite diverse in its offensive attack through the first month of the season, turned to Racliffe time and again when the Cougars needed a point. She had a career-high 63 attacks on the Warrior defense and finished with a fine .365 attack clip.

With the match tied at 1 set apiece, Azusa Pacific let an early 5-point lead slip away in the swing set of play. Westmont’s Alison Sharp led the Warriors back, igniting a 7-3 run that gave Westmont a 21-19 advantage and clear sight of a set victory. However, the Cougars produced 3 consecutive kills, 2 by Radcliffe, to assume a 1-point advantage at 22-21.

Following back-to-back Warrior points to put Westmont back on top by a single tally, the 2 teams traded points for the next 8 serves with Azusa Pacific continually chasing the Warriors and facing set point on 5 separate occasions. Finally, a pair of Radcliffe kills sandwiched around a Westmont block error, in which the Warriors were whistled for reaching over the net, was enough to push Azusa Pacific past Westmont for the 32-30 set victory and a 2-1 match lead.

“That was the difference,” said Keife. “Whoever won that third set was sitting in good shape, and no matter who lost, it was going to be difficult for them to come back and win 2 more sets. It was a physically and emotionally draining third set.”

Indeed, the Cougars rolled through the fourth and final set, jumping out to the largest lead in the match at 10-3 behind 4 more Radcliffe kills. Westmont rallied to within a pair of points at 22-20 late in the set, but again Cougar setter Raechel Porter went to Radcliffe for a couple more kills to put the set and the match away.

The first 2 sets were evenly played. The Cougars claimed the first one by getting the final 3 points. Westmont returned the favor in the second set, scoring 5 of the final 6 points to steal an identical 25-23 verdict.

“Westmont makes you work for every point,” said Keife. “They don’t make mistakes and they’re very good on defense.”

All-American Amy Alkazin supported Radcliffe’s effort with 11 kills while freshman Jackie Landers chipped in with an additional 10. Junior Aerial Beestra had a hand in 7 of the Cougars’ 15 blocks and collected 6 kills in just 9 attempts.

Sharp was the only Warrior in double-figures in kills with 22.

Azusa Pacific has now won 12 straight matches over Westmont, which also hasn’t won in Azusa since November of 2002.

With the victory, Azusa Pacific improves to 13-1 overall, the Cougars’ best start since taking 14 of the first 15 matches at the start of the 2000 campaign, and move to 1-1 in GSAC play. Westmont falls to 6-4 overall, 0-2 in the GSAC.