PHOENIX, Ariz. -- After pulling out a tight first set, the NCAA Division II’s No. 13-ranked Grand Canyon won two of the next three sets to claim a four-set victory over Azusa Pacific in a Pacific West Conference match Saturday afternoon.
The Cougars recovered from losing the first set to decisively win the second set, 25-17. However, the Antelopes picked up another close set at 25-23 in the third before closing out the match by winning the fourth set, 25-14.
The Cougars are now 11-4 overall and drop to 3-3 in their inaugural season in the Pacific West Conference, while the Antelopes improve to 14-2 overall with a 4-2 mark in conference play.
Azusa Pacific had a lead in the third set on three separate occasions and only trailed 23-22 late in the set. Yet the 'Lopes leading attacker on the match, sophomore Hayleigh Friemoth drilled a pair of crucial kills to give GCU a 2-1 advantage.
Friemoth finished the match with 15 kills and a .364 attack percentage. The outside hitter also notched four digs and a block. The home team began to dominate the match at that point, winning as many as six points in a row in the fourth set to claim its fourth conference victory of the season.
In the opening set of the match, the score was tied 13 times and neither team led by more than three points at any time in the set. Trailing 23-22, Grand Canyon's senior setter, Kristen Preach, set junior Kristen Johannsen for kills on consecutive points to give the 'Lopes the first set-point. Freshman Joy Reinke replied for the Cougars with one of her 13 kills in the match to keep the set alive, but a Cougar attack error following a kill by GCU senior Janae Giles gave the set to Grand Canyon.
The Antelope attackers played a cleaner match with just 15 errors compared to 22 for the Cougars. Johannsen led Grand Canyon with a .444 attack percentage on 18 attacks. Preach ran the offense efficiently with 48 assists and no errors.
Cougar senior setter Sophie Burns registered 46 assists and dished the ball to a variety of attackers. Azusa Pacific had three players with over 10 kills, led by junior Jackie Landers with 18 kills. Sophomore Hayley Beetstra added 12 kills for the Cougars and had a .308 attack percentage.
The 'Lopes were paced defensively by sophomore libero Mackenzie Phelps with 20 digs, while freshman Ashley Swatek led the Cougars with 17.
On Thursday, Azusa Pacific will travel to Vanguard in a non-conference tilt, while Grand Canyon takes on California Baptist on Friday. The Cougars and Antelopes will meet again in the Felix Event Center next Saturday to wrap up the season series.