AZUSA, Calif. -- Statistics can’t tell the truth … only the score does.
In a battle of 2 NAIA Top 10-ranked teams, No 7-ranked Azusa Pacific attacked better, served better and supposedly defended better than No. 9 Biola, according to the final stats. However, in the end only Biola looked the part of a top ten team and defied the stats, using a balanced and efficient offense to repeatedly find holes in Azusa Pacific’s coverage and post a 4-set Golden State Athletic Conference victory, 25-23, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, before a crowd of 511 in the Felix Event Center Tuesday night.
A trio of Eagles – Kim Russell (14), Tavea Hampton (12) and Christine Douglas (12) – registered double-digit kills, including key ones at critical moments late in sets 1, 2 and 4, to hold off Azusa Pacific, which seemingly was playing from behind all night long.
“We allowed them to run their offense and get too many runs on us,” said Azusa Pacific coach Chris Keife. “Oftentimes our serving was soft and didn’t get Biola out of its scheme. In turn they put up points in stretches, and you can’t allow a team like Biola to do that.”
Indeed, Biola out-scored Azusa Pacific by only 5 points for the entire match, but the Eagles held early 5-point leads in both sets 1 and 2, putting the Cougars on their collective heels from the opening serve. The Eagles reversed the table in set 4 by rallying from a deficit to assume several 4 point leads late in the match, finally holding off the Cougars to collect its third victory in the past 4 visits to Felix Event Center.
“We just spotted them too many big leads at the beginning of each set,” Keife. “In every set we came back and put a little pressure on them at the end which was good, but we just gave up 2 or 3 points too many at key spots.”
After falling behind 13-8 in the first set, Azusa Pacific came back behind the play of Krista Brenner in which she generated 4 kills in a 12-5 run that gave the Cougars their first lead of the match at 20-18. However, Hampton, Carroll and Russell regained control of the Eagle attack and Biola scored 4 of the set’s final 5 points to take a critical 1-0 lead in the match.
Biola continued to roll in the second set. Led by Russell’s 5 kills, the Eagles led from opening serve to the Cougars’ final attack error of the set, sometimes leading by as much as 6 points as they cruised to a set win that was more lopsided than the score indicated.
In the third set, back-to-back kills by Whittany Radcliffe and Brittany Best , who was making her first appearance of the season, capped a 5-1 Cougar run that gave Azusa Pacific the third set and momentarily breathed new life into a frustrated set of Cougars.
In the fourth set, Azusa Pacific continually struggled with its offense and at one point misfired on 3 straight attacks to allow Biola to move out to an 18-14 lead. The Cougars fought off 3 consecutive match points but eventually succumbed to a Hampton kill off a quick set to clinch the match victory.
Radcliffe led Azusa Pacific with a match-high 15 kills. Brenner added 12. The Cougars produced 13 points off blocks with freshman Christy Cain getting a hand in 5 of them.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 15-2 overall and 3-2 in the GSAC. Biola improves to 11-4 overall, 4-1 in the GSAC.