SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- According to the rankings, Azusa Pacific’s pool play opener against the NAIA’s No. 22-ranked Grand View (Iowa) was supposed to be its easiest in the next three days. However, the Vikings stole the opening set to put the No. 6-ranked Cougars on their heels before eventually settling in for a 25-27, 25-21, 25-17, 19-25, 15-6 victory on Tuesday’s opening night of final-site action at the 2011 NAIA Volleyball National Championship.
Three players registered double figures in kills, led by sophomore outside hitter Jackie Landers’ 17-kill effort, and senior libero Robin Portela collected 23 digs to lead the defense to its eighth 90-dig performance of the season. Three others notched at least 14 digs, and four different players each had a hand in five blocks for the Cougars, who improved to 5-2 in five-set matches this year and have now won 21 of its 24 five-set contests over the past three seasons.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 1-0 in its four-team pool along with No. 7-ranked Rocky Mountain (Mont.), which defeated No. 17 Taylor in three sets earlier Tuesday evening. The Cougars are now 29-6 overall with pool play matches against Taylor (Wednesday) and Rocky Mountain (Thursday) still remaining before half of the 24-team final site field is sent home as the single-elimination bracket of the tournament kicks off on Friday.