IRVINE, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific delivered head coach Chris Keife’s 200th career coaching victory in style, fashioning the most one-sided victory the Cougars have ever posted in the current 25-point rally scoring format with a 25-4, 25-17, 25-9 win over Concordia (N.Y.) after sweeping Carroll (Mont.) earlier in the day at the Asics/Crowne Plaza Labor Day Invitational hosted by Concordia (Calif.) University.
“It was pretty fun, because I had no clue about the milestone,” Keife explained, “and I think somehow the girls had found out beforehand and eventually told me what was going on.”
The match took just 52 minutes to complete, and it was the Cougars’ second three-set sweep of the day after a 25-14, 25-22, 25-16 morning victory over Carroll (Mont.).
By extending its season-opening winning streak to nine matches, the NAIA’s No. 6-ranked Azusa Pacific gave its eighth-year head coach a memorable milestone as Keife’s career record now stands at 200-93, with 180 of those victories coming during his eight seasons at the helm of the Cougar program.
“I really don’t look at any career milestones for myself, whether it’s 100 wins or 200 wins, or even looking ahead at 300 wins down the road,” said Keife, “but after you watch your colleagues reach those milestones and get excited for them, it’s fun to learn when you’ve hit one yourself. It’s fun to reflect on all 200 of those wins and to reflect on the players who were a part of each one of them. It’s a good time to reflect on the blessings God has bestowed on me and my players to allow me to coach them, and it’s a fun thing to experience that type of reflection.”
The 45-point combined margin of victory was the largest since Azusa Pacific out-scored another school from New York, Houghton College, by 47 in a three-set sweep in 2007, when college volleyball was still using the 30-point rally scoring format.
“As I reflect on my time at Azusa Pacific and Hope International, I just have to attribute it all to the players and their hard work and dedication to the sport of volleyball,” Keife said. “This year’s team is the most mature I’ve ever coached. It’s very senior-heavy, and they’ve tasted success at nationals the last 3 years. They know what I expect, and they’ve done a really good job of not only preparing themselves but also getting the new players adjusted to our program to help us get to where we want to be as a team.”
In the opening match against Carroll (Mont.), senior right side hitter Whittany Radcliffe converted for 16 kills, while senior middle blocker Amy Alkazin added 10 kills in only 19 attack attempts. Senior libero Robin Portela continued her rapid climb up the program’s career records chart, notching 23 digs against Carroll and recording two more before she sat out the majority of the lopsided Concordia victory. Portela is 33 digs away from tying the program’s digs record, which is held by Stephanie Benitez with 1,795 digs.
Azusa Pacific faces another pair of unranked NAIA programs to close out the Labor Day Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 3, taking on Kansas Wesleyan and Westminster (Utah) to round out the tournament.