SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- After playing more sets than any team during pool play, and then going into extended play in its opening set of the single-elimination round, Azusa Pacific seemingly ran out of gas and was bounced out of the NAIA Championship Tournament, falling to Lewis-Clark State College, 30-28, 13-25, 19-25, 19-25, in the first match Friday at the Tyson Events Center.
The Cougars, who rallied to pull out a first-set win, struggled to match L-C State’s energy and efficiency the rest of the match, and they had no answer for Warrior hitters Deddiy Alaimaleata and Nicole Graybeal, who combined for 34 of the L-C State’s 64 kills in the match.
The victory pushes Lewis-Clark State’s record to 31-2 and puts the Warriors in tonight’s quarterfinals where it will meet top-ranked Lee University. Azusa Pacific is denied is first 30-win campaign since 1991 and has its season come to an end at 29-8.
Other than the opening set when the Cougars used 3 straight Marguerite Hanna kills to take the set 30-28, Lewis-Clark State was in control and unthreatened for much of the match. The Warriors rolled through the second set, riding Alaimaleata’s play to assume a commanding 20-9 lead, eventually tying the match at a set apiece. Alaimaleata converted 6 of her 7 attacks into kills during the set.
In the third set, Warriors parlayed a 9-3 run into a comfortable 15-9 advantage, and then kept Azusa Pacific at bay, never allowing the Cougars to get closer than 3 points the rest of the set. Azusa Pacific struggled to put away any of its 35 attacks, 20 of which were dug by a Warrior player.
With their season on the line in the fourth set, the Cougars simply tired out after knotting the set at 12-12 on a Jackie Landers kill. The Warriors went on a 10-4 run, aided by 4 consecutive Azusa Pacific attack errors to assume a 6-point advantage that they maintained the rest of the way.
Alaimaleata registered a match-high 18 kills while Graybeal finished the match with her 16th kill. The Warriors collected 65 digs (compared to 53 for Azusa Pacific), led by Katie Hinrichs’ match-best 14.
The Cougars, who attacked at a .181 clip, were led by Hanna’s 13 kills. In her first action in 10 weeks, Hanna put together a fine tournament, tallying 37 kills (2.2/set) while hitting at a team-high .309 attack percentage over the course of 4 matches. Junior Whittany Radcliffe tallied 12 kills.