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AZUSA, Calif.-- Last year the Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team made history, ending a 41-match losing streak to Fresno Pacific. On Saturday it seemed like this year’s squad was on its way to recording the Cougars’ first winning streak over the Sunbirds since 1983, winning the first two sets and taking an early lead in the third. But despite the strong start, Fresno Pacific rallied back to end a Cougar streak of seven straight five-set wins, recording its third Pacific West Conference victory with a 3-2 win (16-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-14, 15-8).
The Cougars stormed out to a quick win in the first set before taking the second by a score of 25-20. Then in the third it looked like Azusa Pacific was on its way to registering its first sweep against Fresno Pacific in nearly 30 years, leading 7-2 out of the gate. But everything quickly turned for the worse.
Following a Sunbird timeout Fresno Pacific utilized an 8-0 run to take a 10-7 lead, eventually taking the set 26-24. Fresno Pacific cruised over the next two games, and outscored Azusa Pacific 64-39 after the Cougars grabbed a 7-2 lead at the beginning of the third set. The loss dropped Azusa Pacific’s five-set record over the last four years to 26-4.
Jackie Landers paced Azusa Pacific with 16 kills, while freshman Joy Reinke finished with a double-double, tallying 15 kills and 11 digs to go with three blocks. Sophie Burns had an impressive all-around performance, assisting on 37 kills, while recording a team-high 17 digs. Burns also added four kills, two aces and two blocks.
The Cougar hitters had no problems in the first two sets, combining to hit at a .323 clip behind 12 kills from Landers. Over the final three frames the Cougars hitting percentage dropped to .195 as the Sunbirds’ front line proved to be troublesome for the Cougars’ attack in the third, fourth, and fifth sets, notching 17 blocks after opening with seven in the first two games. Kathleen Anderson had a match-high nine blocks, while Erica Adachi and Rupia Inck finished with seven and five respectively. Inck also posted 20 kills, 18 digs, and two aces to help Fresno Pacific pull off the comeback win.
In the first set Azusa Pacific rolled out to a 7-2 start, and were never really challenged, winning 25-16 after Burns tabbed back-to-back aces to end the set. In the second the Cougars again got out to a strong start, recording seven of the first 10 points. The Sunbirds, however, fought back with a 6-3 run to cut the deficit to one point at 10-9. Azusa Pacific then held off the Sunbirds, winning 25-20 behind four kills from junior hitter Lauren Edwards. Edwards tallied seven kills in the match, hitting at a .429 clip on 14 attempts.
The Cougars continued to roll in the beginning of the third set, with Hayley Beetstra notching two of her six kills in the first three points. Azusa Pacific eventually captured a 7-2 edge, forcing Fresno Pacific to call a timeout. Following the break the Sunbirds went on a 15-4 run, which included an 8-0 spurt, to take a 17-12 lead. Fresno Pacific eventually got to game-point with a 24-19 advantage, but the Cougars mounted a run of their own, staving off five set points to tie it at 24-24. Fresno Pacific, however, responded with a pair of kills to to take its first set of the day.
In the fourth set the teams traded points, with Fresno Pacific grabbing a 13-10 edge, before closing on a 12-4 run. In the set the Sunbirds recorded nine blocks, holding Azusa Pacific to an abysmal .000 attack percentage. In the decisive fifth set Fresno Pacific led throughout, ultimately winning 15-8 to improve to 11-1 this season, while the Cougars dropped to 10-3. Azusa Pacific will have just a day to bounce back as the Cougars take on Notre Dame de Namur on Monday night at 7 p.m.