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Strong To The Finish

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Published
September 14, 2010
By
Joe Reinsch
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EL CAJON, Calif. – Junior middle blocker Amy Alkazin gave the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Azusa Pacific its first lead of the match with her first of 8 kills, paving the way for a relatively easy 25-21, 25-18, 25-13 sweep of unranked San Diego Christian Tuesday night in El Cajon.

Alkazin tallied an efficient 5 kills in just 6 attempts in the opening set alone, her first giving the Cougars their first lead at 8-7 and the next in the midst of an 8-0 run that turned a 2-point deficit into a commanding 16-10 margin. She finished the match with 8 kills and no errors in 13 attempts for a tidy .615 attack percentage, and Azusa Pacific never trailed by the time San Diego Christian surpassed the 10-point mark in any of the 3 sets of the contest.

Once Alkazin’s opening-set fireworks cleared, the rest of Azusa Pacific’s team followed suit, with junior right side hitter Whittany Radcliffe notching 9 of her match-high 11 kills in the second and third sets. Radcliffe and Alkazin recorded back-to-back kills in a 6-point swing in the second set that turned an 8-6 deficit into a 12-8 lead that the Cougars never relinquished in a 25-18 win.

The final set was Azusa Pacific’s offensive masterpiece, an efficient 14-kill performance in 22 errorless attempts for a blistering .636 attack percentage. Freshman outside hitter Jackie Landers had 4 kills during an 11-2 run, turning San Diego Christian’s final 2-point lead of the night into a 14-7 advantage. Radcliffe had 5 kills during the set, and sophomore outside hitter Lenna Madden converted all 3 of her swings into kills in the final 4 points of the set, including the match-point kill that finished off the 25-13 third-set win.

The Cougar defense, led by junior libero Robin Portela’s match-high 11 digs, didn’t allow any San Diego Christian hitters to reach double-digits in kills although the Hawks did register 8 service aces. Junior setter Raechel Jones served 3 of Azusa Pacific’s 4 aces, and she also tallied the match-high in assists with 18. Landers finished with 9 kills, the Cougars’ second-highest total on the night.

Top performers for San Diego Christian included Lauren Howard’s team-high 8 kills, Stephanie Rice’s team-high 10 digs, and a 5-block, 3-ace effort from Kim McCalmont.

Azusa Pacific has now won 21 straight matches against San Diego Christian, including 3-set sweeps in the last 12 meetings. The Cougars are now 14-1 overall, matching the best start since winning 14 of 15 at the outset of the 2000 campaign, and have won 2 straight in GSAC play after a conference-opening defeat at California Baptist. San Diego Christian drops to 8-4 overall and 1-2 in GSAC play.

The Cougars return home for a 3 p.m. matchup on Saturday, Sept. 18, against Point Loma Nazarene, which is out of the NAIA’s Top 25 but is 1 of the 8 GSAC teams that received votes in the weekly poll.