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AZUSA, Calif.-- After opening the Pacific West Conference season with a brutal schedule against some of the league favorites, the Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team registered a well-needed sweep, defeating Notre Dame de Namur in three sets (25-19, 26-24, 25-13) on Monday night. Jackie Landers and Joy Reinke led the way with 16 and 12 kills respectively, while the Cougars got an impressive performance from an unlikely source when freshman setter Tristan Racich posted a career-high 34 assists off the bench.
“It’s always good to get a sweep. We played some girls who don’t get a ton of playing time so we got a lot of experience out there. Racich did well. She’s used to playing at a high level, whether from high school or club volleyball. We were struggling offensively and we wanted to change things up, and she did a really good job for us,” said Keife.
Racich replaced the program’s No. 6 all-time assists leader, Sophie Burns, in the opening set, and played throughout the remainder of the match. She tallied nine assists in the first set, helping the Cougars to a 25-19 win after replacing Burns, who has orchestrated the Azusa Pacific offense to the tune of 407 assists this season, good for third in the PacWest. Racich helped the Cougars’ attack (11-3) finish with a .267 hitting percentage, led by Ashley Vander Tuig who recorded eight kills on 18 swings (.389). Landers, who leads the PacWest with 216 kills, had another strong night, notching 16 kills at a .364 clip.
Azusa Pacific was playing in its third match in four days, and it showed early on as the hapless Argonauts (1-12, 0-5) took a 10-8 lead in the first set. The Cougars, however, responded with a 13-6 run, capped by a Reinke kill to take control of the game at 21-6. Azusa Pacific would then take a 25-19 first set win on an attack error from Notre Dame de Namur.
In the second set the Argonauts, which have yet to win a set in PacWest play, looked primed to record their first, overcoming a 15-9 deficit to tie the game at 20-20 on one of Chelsea Olson’s three blocks. Azusa Pacific eventually assumed a 24-21 lead, but dropped three consecutive set points to bring the score to 24-24. The Cougars, however, ended any thoughts of an upset after posting back-to-back kills from Hayley Beetstra and Reinke to take a 2-0 edge.
In the third set Azusa Pacific made quick work of the Argonauts, sprinting to a 4-0 lead before grabbing a 16-6 advantage on one of Landers’ six kills of the set. The Cougars eventually won 25-13, posting their fourth sweep of the season after a pair of lengthy five-set matches over the weekend.
Emily Ingalls came off the bench to add six digs while libero Ashley Swatek led the Cougars with eight. Racich led all players with three aces to go with her three kills, as Vander Tuig added to her team-leading block total of 60 with four on the night. Breezy Funk and Cori Esparza chipped in with four digs apiece while Christy Cain tabbed four kills and a solo block in her first match with extended playing time this season.
Notre Dame de Namur’s Brooke DeMiguel and Jennifer Jasper had double-digit kills, and Jasper posted a match-high six blocks. After a five-match home stand the Cougars hit the road for a Saturday contest against Grand Canyon in Phoenix, Ariz. at 3 p.m.