AZUSA, Calif. -- The rigors of Golden State Athletic Conference volleyball will test the mettle of any team and person. The 9-week conference season can push the best to the brink of physical and emotional fatigue. So every team needs an oasis.
For Azusa Pacific, a team that has played 18 sets in its past 4 matches, The Master’s College is the break, that much-needed breather. The Cougars downed The Master’s in 3 sets tonight, 25-20, 25-15, 25-21, in the Felix Event Center.
The Cougars were hardly efficient in their play and perhaps not so NAIA Top-10 like in their performance, but given what they’ve been through the past 2 weeks, they’ll take a 3-set victory – no extra play and win to come with it.
“We’ve had a lot of matches up to tonight that took us to the limit emotionally and physically,” said Azusa Pacific Head Coach Chris Keife, “but I think we let down too much tonight. We were sloppy on our side of the net, and our control and serve-receive were not what they needed to be for a match like this.”
Junior Whittany Radcliffe posted a match-high 14 kills, including 6 in the first set and 5 more in the third, to lead Azusa Pacific to its 12th straight win over The Mustangs, a winning streak that stretches 6 years.
Radcliffe tallied 3 kills early in the match to spark a 9-1 Cougar run after Azusa Pacific had fallen behind 3-0 to start the match. Then in the third set, after The Master’s had rallied to tie the score at 16-16, Radcliffe sandwiched a Mustang error with her own pair of kills to kick-start the Cougar offense once again.
“Whittany is our go-to player and teams are trying to slow her down,” said Keife. “Their libero (Leslie Windham) tonight was watching Whittany’s every move and really did a good job of defending a lot of Whittany’s attacks.”
Freshman Jackie Landers followed with 8 kills, including 4 on 6 attempts in the third set.
“Jackie came up with some big kills at key moments when we were struggling,” added Keife. “We’re relying on her more and more to get points for us.”
Azusa Pacific fell behind 3-0 to start the match and 6-0 to start the second set but rebounded each time and took control of both sets. The Cougars closed the second set with 13-3 run, sparked by back-to-back Raechel Jones’ service aces and capped by back-to-back Ariel Beetstra kills.
In the third set, the Cougars let leads of 16-12 and 21-18 slip away but 4 Mustang errors at key moments allowed Azusa Pacific to get out of the Felix Event Center in just 64 minutes of play.
Tori Callihan led The Master’s with 8 kills, but as a team the Mustangs attacked at just a .043 (27-22-117) clip. The Cougars answered with a .218 (43-17-119) pace.
“Tonight’s play wasn’t what I wanted for the whole match,” said Keife. “At times we were good, and at times we broke down mentally just a little too much -- nothing major, just in the little details. We are struggling with streaks and runs and we have to shorten those up heading into the second round of conference play.”
Now 17-3 on the season, 5-3 in GSAC play, Azusa Pacific closes out the first go-around in the GSAC next week with a visit to Hope International University on Tuesday (Oct. 5) before coming home to host Concordia University on Friday (Oct. 8). Both matches’ first-serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.