AZUSA, Calif. -- No GSAC team has played more volleyball this season than Azusa Pacific. The Cougars entered tonight’s match with San Diego Christian having already played 95 sets, and of their 25 matches, 8 had gone a full 5 sets, including the past 4 matches in a row.
So it was reasonable for Cougar Head Coach Chris Keife to mix in some much-needed rest tonight, particularly since Azusa Pacific had won 21 consecutive matches over San Diego Christian and had not dropped a set to SDCC in 6 years.
For the Cougars, though, nothing comes easy, not even peaceful rest.
Azusa Pacific needed 4 sets to put away San Diego Christian, beating the Hawks 25-12, 21-25, 25-14 and 25-10, in a Golden State Athletic Conference match in the Felix Event Center Tuesday night.
Junior Whittany Radcliffe, this week’s NAIA National Player of the Week, led the Cougars with 15 kills while junior Krista Brenner came off the bench to tally 10.
The Cougars used a 14-2 run midway through the first set to run away from San Diego Christian while at the same time setting up its upcoming troubles. Seven different Cougars accounted for Azusa Pacific’s 17 opening-set kills, and since the set-win came so easily and with a wide variety of help, Keife believed the time was right to rest players. Twelve different Cougars got court action in the second set while All-American Amy Alkazin and starter Lenna Madden sat out.
The move backfired, however. Azusa Pacific was out of rhythm the entire set, continually miss-hitting on offense while leaving gaps on defense. The Hawks hit at a.361 clip (15-2-36), more than twice the pace they managed in any of the other 3 sets, and Azusa Pacific struggled, hitting a mere .175 (15-8-40) rate. The Hawks kept Azusa Pacific at bay the entire set, using a 4-1 run to secure its first set win over an Azusa Pacific team since 2004.
So much for rest. Re-enter Alkazin and Madden for the balance of the match, and Azusa Pacific rolled, more than doubling up the Hawks’ offensive output to sprint away with the victory. The Cougars produced big and quick runs to dispose of San Diego Christian, finishing the fourth set with a 10-3 run, and fashioning an 11-3 run in the decisive fourth set.
Alkazin finished with 8 kills on 16 attempts without an error for her second straight match with a .500 attack percentage. Ariel Beetstra chipped in with 7 kills on just 10 attempts to go along with 3 solo blocks.
“It wasn’t the best we’ve played this year, but we’re dragging a little bit, both mentally and physically,” said Keife. “We’re coming off 4 straight 5-setters, including the last 2 over Top-10 ranked teams, so it was a little hard for everyone to be at their peak tonight. I’m giving the ladies tomorrow off. They deserve it.”
Azusa Pacific pushes its winning streak to 4 straight and has won 6 of its past 7 matches to improve to 22-4 on the season, 9-4 in GSAC play. San Diego Christian, which was led by Lauren Howard’s 12 kills, falls to 8-14 overall, 1-12 in the GSAC.