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Lancers Spoil Opener

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September 11, 2012
Chris Baker
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AZUSA, Calif.-- It started off well, but unfortunately for the Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team the Cougars couldn’t hold off a veteran-laden California Baptist squad, falling in four sets to the Lancers in the first Pacific West Conference match in program history. The Cougars (8-2) were able to rally for a 26-24 first-set win, but followed that up with three straight losses to drop their first match of the season at the new-look Felix Event Center against an all-too familiar foe (24-26, 25-14, 25-23, 25-12).

In the loss, which marked the 74th meeting between the two programs, a pair of Cougar upperclassmen registered double-doubles, with Jackie Landers posting 17 kills and 10 digs, while senior Sophie Burns tacked on 23 assists and 18 digs. Azusa Pacific had just two players finish with more than 10 kills (Landers and Joy Reinke; 12), tabbing the youthful squad’s worst hitting performance of the young season.

With 30 errors the Cougars posted a 0.86 attack percentage, and had 30 of their attempts blocked, thanks in large part to an impressive defensive effort from CBU freshman Malika O’Brien, who finished with 15 blocks in the contest to break the program’s single-match blocking record, easily surpassing the previous mark of 11.

“California Baptist is always good. They have a lot of experience. We have a lot of youth, and I think that showed tonight,” said head coach Chris Keife. “There were times in the third set where we had opportunities to win, but we got a little careless at times and that hurt us. They made plays when they needed to, and we didn’t.”

The Cougars, who have played well-beyond their years in the first nine matches of 2012, were at it again in the opening set, jumping out to a 16-8 lead against the 2011 NCCAA champions. CBU, however, fought back with an 8-2 spurt to make it an 18-16 contest and eventually knotted the game at 24-all. But behind two of Landers’ eight kills of the set, Azusa Pacific was able to close out the first game with a 26-24 win.

The second set saw California Baptist utilize a 10-0 run to grab a commanding 20-7 edge, and ultimately take a 25-14 win. In that set the Cougars’ offense was inept, committing nine attack errors to tab a -0.029 hitting percentage while hitting into five Lancer blocks.

In the third set the Cougars held a 20-16 lead, and then a 22-19 advantage before the Lancers used a 9-3 run, which included six of the final seven points, to take a crucial 2-1 lead in the match, helping to quiet a capacity crowd. The fourth set saw CBU run away with the match, holding the Cougars to a season-low 12 points to spoil what was an otherwise great night for Cougar volleyball.

“The Atmosphere was great. The venue was good and it was everything we wanted. It was loud, there was a lot of energy, and the stands were filled. We got everything we wanted but the win,” said Keife. “The encouraging part is that in sets one and three, when we were serving aggressively, good things happened. When we got timid the runs came and we couldn’t stop them. We need to stay focused and be a little more aggressive out there.”

Freshman blocker Ashley Vander Tuig had a strong night defensively, notching six blocks, while fellow freshman Ashley Swatek chipped in with 11 digs and four assists. Reinke added three aces and nine digs as Tristan Racich registered 11 assists.

The match dropped the Cougars’ all-time record with the Lancers to 38-36, while preseason PacWest Player of the Year Ingrid Carmona recorded 17 kills, 10 digs, and four aces in the match.

Azusa Pacific’s next contest will be on Saturday at the Felix Event Center against another former GSAC counterpart, Point Loma. The opening serve is scheduled for 3 p.m.