WARRENSBURG, Mo.A day after dropping its first match of the season, the Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team split a pair against two top-25 teams on Saturday afternoon. The Cougars, ranked No. 4 in the NAIA, lost the opening match to NCAA Div. II No. 8 Central Missouri in four sets, but bounced back to hold on for a dramatic five-set win over NCAA Div. II No.17 Emporia State (Kan.).
Azusa Pacific’s career digs leader, Robin Portela added to her total with 57 on the day, including 30 in the win.
Jackie Landers. Whittany Radcliffe, and Amy Alkazin powered the Cougar attack, with each posting over 20 kills in the doubleheader.
In the first match Azusa Pacific fell behind 3-0 early in the opening set before Raechel Jones’ kill got the Cougars on the board. However, Central Missouri continued to roll, grabbing five of the next six points to extend its lead to 8-2.
Radcliffe’s first kill gave the Cougars a five point deficit, but the team wouldn’t get closer than that the rest of the set, losing 25-14. Central Missouri had 19 kills, and registered an attack percentage of .341 compared to Azusa Pacific’s .159 mark with just 10 kills on 44 tries.
The second set was more of the same as Central Missouri jumped out to 6-2 lead. The Cougars trailed by as much as 11 at 22-11, but rattled off six of the next seven points to force a timeout from Central Missouri at 23-17. The Cougars rally ended there as they gave up the next two to take a 25-17loss and an 0-2 hole in the match.
The momentum from the late spurt spilled over into the third set as.Christy Cain’s kill gave the Cougars the lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish. There were five ties, but no lead changes in the set as Azusa Pacific posted a 25-22 win to get back into the match.
The following set would be close until midway through as the Cougars were within reach at 16-14. Central Missouri then finished the match with a 7-2 run to take the match and give the Cougars their second straight match after opening the season with its best streak in program history.
In the second game Azusa Pacific looked to get back on track against the 17th ranked team in the country. The Cougars won the first set as they recorded 16 kills and held the Emporia State to a .190 attack percentage. The second set, which had 13 ties and 9 lead changes, proved to be one of the most exciting all year.
After giving up the first point Landers responded with her first of 22 kills in the set. The teams traded side-outs throughout the entire set, and no team led by more than two in the second set.
Emporia State was in good shape leading 23-22 with the momentum of three straight scores, but a Hornet’s attack error tied it at 23-23. Radcliffe then took control, notching two straight kills to earn the 25-23 win.
The third set saw the Cougars fall behind by 5 quickly, trailing 10-5 after 15 points. But a 14-4 run sparked by Cain gave the team a 19-14 lead. The Hornets stung back with 11-3 run of their own to take the team’s first set.
In the fourth Landers opened with three consecutive kills. But despite the start the Hornets stayed in it and eventually took a 7-6 lead. Cain’s put away, assisted by Jones tied it up, but Emporia continued to roll. The Hornets led by as much as six, but a mini-run by Azusa Pacific near the end caused Emporia to call a timeout. The team held on to win 25-22 forcing a winner-take-all fifth set.
After side-outs kept the set close, Radcliffe’s 20th kill, off a Portela set, ignited a 9-3 run capped by a Hanna Marguerite kill to win the set and end the brief two game skid.
Portela had an impressive 30 digs in the win as the Cougars improve to 13-2.
The team will open GSAC play on Tuesday Sep. 13 at the Felix Event Center vs. Point Loma Nazarene at 7 p.m.