FULLERTON, Calif.-- Over the weekend the young, but talented, Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team proved that its reworked lineup wasn’t going to take as much time to gel as most imagined, going 4-0 at the Seaside invitational at Point Loma. On Tuesday night the Cougars further solidified their standing, sweeping Hope International to win their fifth straight match away from home.
In the win Azusa Pacific (5-0) continued to get help from its freshmen as rookie outside hitter Joy Reinke led the team with a match-high 12 kills and 11 digs for her second double-double effort of the season. In the match the Vista, Calif. native reached the 10-kill mark for the fifth consecutive time, all while hitting a blistering .526 against the Royals (2-4). Fellow freshman Tristan Racich had a season-high 22 assists on the night to go with four digs and a pair of aces after senior setter Sophie Burns sat out the third set thanks to a commanding Cougar lead.
And while Azusa Pacific’s youthful support has been vital to the team’s early success, the Cougars leaders continued to come from the upperclassmen. Burns tallied 17 assists and three blocks despite playing sparingly in the second set and sitting out the third. Through five matches Burns has accumulated 155 assists, and her average of 8.6 assists per set (although early) is the highest in the program since 2007.
Junior Jackie Landers finished second on the team in kills, notching nine on 17 attempts; helping the Cougars post an impressive .455 attack percentage in the sweep while holding Hope International below .100 (0.93) for a dominating 25-15, 25-18, 25-15 win.
In the first set The Cougars used a 7-2 run to separate early from the Royals after the two teams were tied at 5-5. In the spree Landers tallied three kills. Hope International made it relatively close, coming within four at 17-13. But the Cougars closed to score eight of the final 11 points, clinching the set on Landers’ sixth kill.
In the second set Lauren Edwards opened the scoring, giving Azusa Pacific a 1-0 lead with one of her seven kills on the night. The Cougars seemed to have control of the game, grabbing a 9-4 lead on the first of three Ashley Vander Tuig kills, but the Royals fought back to make it a 16-14 contest on a kill from Summer Mitchell. Azusa Pacific, however, responded with a 9-4 run which included three kills from sophomore Hayley Beetstra to take a 2-0 lead.
In the third set The Cougars were almost unstoppable, registering 16 kills on 23 attempts (.652). Beetstra added three more kills as Azusa Pacific jumped out to a 12-3 advantage before completing the sweep with a 25-15 win. Racich recorded 15 assists in the set, while Reinke added four kills. Ashley Swatek and Breezy Funk each finished with five digs and two assists.
The Cougars return to action on Thursday night at the Cal Poly Pomona/Cal State L.A. tournament. Azusa Pacific will face the Broncos at noon before taking on Cal State San Marcos at 5 p.m.