SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 13-ranked Azusa Pacific avoided its second consecutive 5-set defeat, scoring 5 of the final 6 points in the fifth set to rally for a 21-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-27, 15-12 road win over unranked Westmont Tuesday evening in Santa Barbara.
Juniors Amy Alkazin and Whittany Radcliffe led the final burst after the Cougars gave up 3 straight points to fall behind 11-10 in the final set. Alkazin notched back-to-back kills, and Radcliffe followed with 2 straight points on a kill and a block to set up match point for Azusa Pacific. After Westmont’s Ciara Turner’s kill pulled Westmont to within 14-12, Radcliffe finished things off with her team-high 22nd kill of the match.
The Cougars had a chance to finish the match in 4 sets, holding a 21-20 lead in the fourth, but Turner flipped the advantage with a kill followed by a block that was followed by 7 alternating kills between the teams. The set ended when Azusa Pacific committed a service error followed by a ball-handling error that gave Westmont a 27-25 win and forced Azusa Pacific’s sixth 5-set match this season.
Radcliffe finished with 22 kills, her second time with 20-plus kills against Westmont this year, and Alkazin added 15 kills with 16 digs for her second straight double-double. Junior libero Robin Portela posted a match-high 30 digs, her second 30-dig effort this year, leading Azusa Pacific to 87 total digs, its second-highest total in a match this season.
The Cougars never led in the opening set, falling behind in the match with a 25-21 defeat before pulling away late in each of the next 2 sets for 25-20 and 25-23 wins. Freshman middle blocker Christy Cain helped break a 17-17 tie in the second set with a kill and a pair of blocks during a 5-0 run that provided the separation the Cougars needed to even the match at 1 set apiece. The Cougars then trailed, 23-22, in the third set, before an Alkazin kill preceded back-to-back Westmont attack errors that handed Azusa Pacific control of the match with a 2-sets-to-1 advantage.
Westmont was led by Alison Sharp’s 25-kill, 20-dig performance, both of which were team-highs. Sharp had 11 kills in the fourth set alone, including 3 in the final run of 7 straight side outs between the teams. Turner added 17 kills and a match-high 7 blocks, while Kayla Goyich provided 11 kills, 11 digs and 4 blocks for the Warriors.
With the win, Azusa Pacific opens the second half of the 20-match Golden State Athletic Conference schedule with its seventh conference win, improving the Cougars’ record to 19-4 overall and 7-4 in GSAC play. Westmont drops to 9-11 overall and 3-8 in the GSAC.
Azusa Pacific hosts back-to-back matches against NAIA Top 10 programs, taking on No. 6 California Baptist on Thursday at 7 p.m. before meeting No. 8 Taylor (Ind.) University in a 3 p.m. non-conference matchup Saturday.