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Opening Sweep

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Photo by Courtesy of Point Loma Sports Info.

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August 31, 2012
Chris Baker
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SAN DIEGO, Calif.-- After a trio of Azusa Pacific teams went winless on Thursday night the Cougars’ women’s volleyball team woke up with an opportunity to post the first win of the 2012-13 athletics season at Azusa Pacific. The Cougars did just that, albeit after dropping the first set in a 3-1 (22-25, 25-14, 25-14, 25-17) victory over Southern Nazarene (Okla.) at the Sea Side Invitational hosted by Point Loma.

After picking up the first win in the morning Azusa Pacific faced Cal State Dominguez Hills in the evening, where the Cougars battled to a three-hour five-set win (26-24, 27-29, 23-25, 25-12, 15-13) over the Toros to earn an opening sweep on Friday.

Coming into the season there were plenty of questions about how Azusa Pacific would replace last year’s senior class. Today, many of those were answered as the Cougars utilized a balanced attack from its returners and newcomers to give Azusa Pacific fans a glimpse of what the new-look squad was capable of.

Senior setter Sophie Burns had a huge day, recording 55 assists in two matches, while junior hitter Jackie Landers tallied 41 kills. Freshman hitter Joy Reinke posted a double-double against Dominguez and combined for 29 kills and 26 digs.

In the first match Burns registered a double-double, dishing out 23 assists while helping out with 10 digs. Landers had an impressive opener, notching 22 kills while hitting at a .364 clip. Reinke had a strong collegiate debut as the outside hitter, posting 16 kills, six aces, eight digs, and two blocks, all while recording a .441 attack percentage.

After dropping a close first set the Cougars regrouped to win the following three by an average of 10 points. In the second set the Cougars trailed 11-12 after a setting error from Burns. The Cougars, however, went on a 14-2 run to end the game, which included back-to-back-to-back aces from Reinke at the tail end.

The third set had a similar theme as the Cougars and the Crimson Storm battled to a 9-9 tie to open things up. But a 16-6 spree from Azusa Pacific, in which Landers posted four kills, was enough for the team to grab a 2-1 edge. In the deciding set Azusa Pacific grabbed an early 2-1 lead and never gave it up to record a 25-17 win thanks in large part to six kills and two blocks from Landers.

Freshman setter Tristan Racich had 17 assists, three digs, and two blocks in her first match as a Cougar, while Ashley Vander Tuig finished with four blocks, three digs and three kills. Another pair of freshman had solid collegiate debuts as outside hitter Mattie Shelford notched seven kills while Ashley Swatek tallied 16 digs.

In the first set of the Cal State Dominguez Hills match the largest lead was three points, when the Cougars led 7-4. When the Toros had set-point, leading 24-23, Vander Tuig notched a kill to tie it at 24-24. After an attack error from Dominguez gave Azusa Pacific a 25-24 advantage Reinke recorded another ace to seal the set.

In the second game the Cougars and Toros again went past the 25-point mark, but this time with Dominguez coming away with a 29-27 victory. In the third set Azusa Pacific held off five set-points after trailing 24-18, coming within a point before Dominguez put it away on a kill from Elizabeth Krieger.

In the fourth set Azusa Pacific jumped out to an 8-2 advantage after three kills from Reinke, and never looked back, winning 25-12 behind 16 Cougar kills and 13 assists from Burns.

In the deciding fifth set Azusa Pacific and Dominguez traded points until both teams were tied 13-13. After an attack error from the Toros, Landers registered a service ace to clinch the 15-13 win. Swatek recorded 24 digs in the match, while Breezy Funk added 14. Racich assisted on nine kills to go with two aces and two digs.

The Cougars will get back on the court tomorrow in the second day of the Sea Side Invitational where they’ll play Cal State Stanislaus and NorthWest Nazarene.