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Unbeaten Start Still Intact

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Senior outside hitter Marguerite Hanna tallied 11 kills on the day, part of a balanced Azusa Pacific offense Thursday in Angiwin.

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August 25, 2011
Joe Reinsch
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ANGWIN, Calif. -- Thanks in part to a spectacularly efficient offense, the NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Azusa Pacific cruised to a pair of wins Thursday to run its season-opening win streak to six matches. The Cougars, playing in Pacific Union College’s one-day classic-format event, set down Northwest Christian (Ore.) in four sets (25-18, 25-18, 18-25, 25-18) before dumping Oregon Tech in three sets (25-21, 25-13, 25-12).

Last weekend, Oregon Tech delivered a stunning five-set upset of the NAIA’s top-ranked defending national champion Fresno Pacific while Azusa Pacific was off to its 4-0 start at the Cougar Classic. The Cougars passed the early test with flying colors, converting 98 attack attempts into 47 kills with only six errors for a blistering .418 team attack percentage – well short of the Cougars’ single-match record of .587, set in 2004 against Oregon Tech, but an impressive clip nonetheless.

Senior right side hitter Whittany Radcliffe led the way with match-highs of 16 kills in both matches Thursday, and senior libero Robin Portela continued her climb up the program’s career digs chart with 56 on the day. Portela registered 32 digs in the four-set win over Northwest Christian to move past Jenna Sagehorn into third on the all-time list, and she added another 24 in the sweep over Oregon Tech. She now has 1,723 career digs, just 60 away from second all-time and only 72 away from Stephanie Benitez’s Azusa Pacific career record (1,795).

For the second time this season, Azusa Pacific notched at least 100 digs in a match, doing so against Northwest Christian with four players reaching double figures in the four-set win. In addition to Portela’s 32-dig effort, seniors Marguerite Hanna, Raechel Jones, and Amy Alkazin were each in double figures, with 14, 12, and 11 digs, respectively. Jones also served a match-high three aces, freshman outside hitter Jackie Landers notched 11 kills with two aces, and sophomore middle blocker Christy Cain added nine kills and three blocks. Radcliffe and Alkazin each posted a team-high four blocks, part of the Cougars’ 11-block performance, and senior middle blocker Ariel Beetstra also contributed to the effort with three blocks.

Against Oregon Tech, the Cougars were nearly flawless in every phase of the game, turning in eight team blocks and four aces to go with their efficient offense. Defensively, Azusa Pacific notched another 59 digs, surrendered only one ace, and committed only two service errors over the course of the match. Radcliffe’s 16 kills and four blocks were match-highs, while Alkazin added eight kills and three blocks with a pair of aces. Cain, Landers, and Hanna added six kills apiece, with Cain sharing the team blocking lead with two solo and two assist blocks for four total blocks in the match.

With the wins, Azusa Pacific improves to 6-0 overall heading into Friday’s road matchup at Menlo College in Atherton, Calif. The Cougars’ preseason slate still includes two more tournaments on the road before the Sept. 13 Golden State Athletic Conference opener against Hope International.