IRVINE, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific’s first Golden State Athletic Conference road trip got off to a tough start, as the NAIA’s No. 3-ranked Cougars were knocked off by No. 7 Concordia in three sets Saturday night in Irvine.
Concordia, which lost its only match of the season at Azusa Pacific’s Cougar Classic nearly a month ago, has now won 12 in a row following the Eagles’ 25-19, 25-22, 25-15 win, while the Cougars have now lost three of their last five. All three defeats have come to teams ranked in the top ten of either the NAIA or NCAA Division II rankings.
Held to season-lows in total kills and attack percentage, Azusa Pacific’s serve receive surrendered a season-high eight aces to Concordia. Seniors Amy Alkazin and Whittany Radcliffe tallied eight kills each for the team lead, and senior libero Robin Portela registered a team-high 19 digs although she was the only Cougar with double figures in that category.
Concordia was led by Brooke Marino’s 15-kill, 10-dig effort, while Kara Vincitorio led all players with a match-high 24 digs in the three-set sweep. Marino was among an Eagles trio who each served two aces.
Despite five Radcliffe kills in the opening set, Concordia used an 11-4 run that turned an early first-set deficit into a comfortable 14-9 margin, and the Eagles led the rest of the way by at least four points in the 25-19 win. Azusa Pacific kept it closer in the second set, erasing a 19-14 deficit with five consecutive points that included a pair of Alkazin kills and a Marguerite Hanna service ace. However, Concordia scored the next three points and kept its lead the rest of the set for a 25-22 decision.
The third set was all Eagles, however, with Concordia registering five consecutive points to start the set, as well as an eight-point run that pushed the Eagles’ lead to a commanding 15-3. Concordia scored 21 of the first 27 points of the third set, with a late 8-1 Cougar run trimming the final set score to 25-15.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 14-3 overall, 1-1 GSAC, and the Cougars will almost certainly fall behind Concordia in next week’s NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll, which is released on Tuesday. Concordia is now 13-1 overall, 2-0 GSAC. Up next for the Cougars is a visit to four-time defending NAIA national champion Fresno Pacific, which shares the conference lead at 2-0 with Concordia and Biola.