SANTA BARBARA, Calif.-- It may have been a sweep, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t close.
Westmont pushed the NAIA’s No. 7 ranked Azusa Pacific in all three sets on Tuesday night, but the Cougars were simply too strong as they went unscathed (25-21, 25-23, 25-22) to mark their 20th win of the year thanks to Robin Portela’s 21 digs, Sophie Burns’ 23 assists, and a balanced effort at the net.
In the first set Azusa Pacific and Westmont traded the first 12 points before the Cougars opened up a narrow 12-9 lead on Marguerite Hanna’s fourth kill of the match. But the Warriors battled back to take an 18-16 lead on a Kayta Goyich kill; forcing head coach Chris Keife to call a timeout.
The coach’s call worked as his team rallied to score nine of the next 12 points, capped by Amy Alkazin’s fourth of nine kills on the night to give Azusa Pacific a 25-21 first set win. The four-point differential at the end was the largest disparity of the set.
The second set saw both teams exchange sideouts all the way to a 15-15 tie prior to Alkazin grabbing a Cougar lead on a kill thanks to a Burns assist. Azusa Pacific would rattle off three of the next four scores to seize a 20-16 advantage and what appeared to be another win. But Westmont had other plans as they went on a 6-2 run to tie the game at 22-22. However, the run would end their as the Warriors registered two attack errors before giving up a kill to Whittany Radcliffe for a 25-23 Cougar win.
In the third Radcliffe picked up right where she left off, opening the set with a kill to ignite a 3-0 stretch by the Cougars. But yet again Westmont stormed back, taking a 7-6 advantage over the Cougars on an Alexandria Wilson kill. The lead would be short-lived as three Jackie Landers kills helped Azusa Pacific to go ahead by five at 14-9.
The scoring spree didn’t stop there either as the Cougars lengthened their lead to as much as eight when Marguerite slammed it to the floor of Murchison gymnasium to make it a 21-13 game and a seemingly simple win. But Westmont managed to score nine of the next 10 points to bring the Warriors within reach at 24-22; driving a beleaguered Keife to call timeout.
Following the break Landers ended all hope of a miracle comeback with her ninth kill to seal the road sweep.
Hanna led the team with 10 kills (with an attack percentage of .400), while Landers and Alkazin has nine apiece. The win put the Cougars (20-4, 7-2 GSAC) into a tie for second place in the GSAC with Fresno Pacific. Azusa Pacific will have a chance to get within one of the conference’s current leader, Concordia, as they welcome the Eagles to the Felix Event Center for a 7:00 p.m. contest on Saturday night.