AZUSA, Calif.-- The last time Azusa Pacific and Concordia squared off the Eagles sent the Cougars home in three sets and held them to a .174 hitting percentage in Irvine. The second go-around wasn’t much different as the NAIA’s No. 7 ranked Azusa Pacific fell to No. 2 Concordia in four sets (25-18, 23-25, 25-15, 26-24) for the team’s first loss in the Felix Event Center in 2011.
The Cougars (20-5; 7-3) hit just .074 on the night, including a .000 clip in the third set where they managed just 15 points, in the team’s first match of the backend of the GSAC schedule.
“Every match in our conference is big,” said Head Coach Chris Keife. “For us it was a no-lose situation…we had everything to gain but I felt at times tonight we played timid. There were times we played great and times we struggled.”
Despite giving up the first point on an attack error, Concordia jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead in the first set thanks to four Maddy Ekis kills and two attack errors from the Cougars. The Eagles extended the lead to 10-3, putting Azusa Pacific’s perfect home record in jeopardy early on.
But The Cougars fought back, getting a sideout on Whittany Radcliffe’s first of seven kills. From there Azusa Pacific grabbed five of the next six points to get within two at 9-11, forcing a Concordia timeout.
Following the timeout the Eagles pushed the lead to 19-13, before going on to win the first set 25-18.
The second set began with a similar plot as the Eagles took a 13-4 lead over the Cougars, forcing the home team to battle back against one of the toughest front lines in the country.
“We gave up a lot of points early in the sets. We had to [fight] back from seven...eight point deficits,” said Keife. “If you give a team like Concordia that big of a lead it’s hard to come back.”
But the Cougars didn’t give up as Marguerite Hanna ignited a comeback with her first of four second-set kills (she had 15 on the night).
In Azusa Pacific’s 10-4 run, which brought the team within reach at 17-14, the Cougars got two kills from Jackie Landers, and another from Amy Alkazin. The team continued its run, eventually taking a 23-22 before a Landers kill gave Azusa Pacific a 25-23 come from behind win.
But the good vibes didn’t carry over to the third set as Concordia grabbed another early lead when the Eagles blocked a Radcliffe attempt to take a 12-6 advantage. A comeback wasn’t in the works as Concordia took it to the home team for a 25-15 third set win thanks to a stout defense that held Azusa Pacific to a .000 attack percentage.
Needing to win the next two sets after dropping five of six to Concordia on the season, the Cougars stormed to a 5-1 lead. After a Hanna kill put the Eagles down 7-4, Concordia rattled off seven straight points to take an 11-7 lead. The teams swapped sideouts until the Eagles led 16-12. From there Azusa Pacific ran off four straight with kills from Radcliffe and Marguerite, and two errors from Concordia’s Ekis to tie it up at 16-16.
The Cougars eventually got to a game point at 24-23 when Concordia’s Alex Bozoian was whistled for an illegal block. But the Eagles scored three straight to take the fourth set 26-24, for the team’s 22nd straight win.
Sophie Burns and Robin Portela did their best to slow down the Eagles with 21 and 24 (match-high) digs respectively, as the Cougars held Concordia to a .207 hitting percentage. Alkazin pitched in with six blocks, but the story of the night was the Eagle’s blocking game as the road team tallied 36 blocks in the match.
Azusa Pacific’s next match comes on Tuesday against the only other team to sweep them this season, Fresno Pacific. The contest will start at 7 p.m. in the Felix Event Center.