LA MIRADA, Calif. -- If recent history were any indication, a fifth set against the NAIA's No. 14-ranked Biola should have favored No. 7-ranked Azusa Pacific, even inside a packed pro-Eagles Chase Gymnasium.
However, Biola cast aside its fifth-set struggles after rallying from a set down to scratch out a 25-17, 22-25, 18-25, 29-27, 15-11 victory that knocked the Cougars out of second place in the Golden State Athletic Conference standings Tuesday night.
Azusa Pacific had a chance to close out the match in four sets, taking a 25-24 lead in the fourth on a Chelsee Arnitz attack error, but Arnitz came right back for a kill that tied the set again at 25-all before a Christine Douglas block swung the lead back in Biola's favor. The Cougars fought off a pair of set points at 26-25, and 27-26, but consecutive kills gave Biola the 29-27 win that forced the fifth set.
Sophomore middle blocker Christy Cain registered her 11th and final kill of the match for the opening point of the fifth set, giving Azusa Pacific its only lead of the period at 1-0. Biola scored four of the next five and led by at least two points the rest of the way to secure the win.
Senior outside hitter Marguerite Hanna's 16-kill performance nearly equaled the career-high 18 kills she had when the teams first met this year, and sophomore outside hitter Jackie Landers was the Cougars' kill leader with 18. Cain and senior right side hitter Whittany Radcliffe added 11 kills apiece, and senior middle blocker Amy Alkazin added nine kills to go with 20 digs. Senior libero Robin Portela contributed 20 digs, tying Alkazin for the match-high.
Douglas led the way with 16 kills for Biola, which had three others register double-digit kills. Amy Weststeyn, Nicolette Mather, and Sarah Mather combined for 33 kills, going for 12, 11, and 10, respectively, and Weststeyn was practically unstoppable on both sides of the net, committing only one attack error while putting together an 11-block performance.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 22-6 overall, 9-4 GSAC. The Cougars have faced nine NAIA Top-20 programs over the past 12 matches, going 8-4 during the stretch. Biola improves to 19-10 overall, 7-6 GSAC, although four of the Eagles' conference defeats came in five sets.