COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific hadn’t lost to Vanguard since 2006, posting 10 consecutive wins over the Lions during the Cougars’ final five seasons of membership in the Golden State Athletic Conference prior to this year’s transition to NCAA Division II and the Pacific West Conference.
However, thanks to a steady block along with the absence of Azusa Pacific kills leader Jackie Landers, Vanguard snapped the streak with a four-set win over the Cougars Thursday night in a non-conference matchup in Costa Mesa. After Azusa Pacific claimed the opening set, 25-22, Vanguard responded by winning three straight sets for the match victory, winning 25-23, 25-20, and 25-23. The Lions registered 15 blocks in the match, including six in the decisive fourth set.
Freshman Mattie Shelford picked up the slack in Landers’ absence, tallying a match-high 18 kills, while junior Lauren Edwards added 10 kills to pace the Cougar offense. Freshman libero Ashley Swatek was Azusa Pacific’s defensive leader, recording 21 digs for her fourth 20-dig performance this year, while senior setter Sophie Burns notched her fourth consecutive match with at least 30 assists by registering a match-high 39.
The Cougars rallied from seven points down in the opening set, erasing a 17-10 deficit with a 14-3 run to claim a 25-22 opening-set victory. In the second set, Azusa Pacific used a quick four-point burst to erase a late three-point deficit, turning a 22-19 disadvantage into a 23-22 edge late in the set, but Vanguard scored three in a row to even the match at one set apiece with the 25-23 second-set win.
Again within striking distance late, the Cougars trailed by just a point at 21-20 in the third set before surrendering four straight points in a 25-20 defeat. In the fourth set, a six-point deficit (19-13) was quickly disposed of again, this time with a 7-1 run that tied the set at 20-20. The score was still tied at 22-22 before Vanguard registered consecutive points and eventually finished off the match when Kendall Haldi’s solo block capped a 25-23 fourth-set victory for the Lions.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific’s overall record drops to 11-5. The Cougars return to PacWest play on Saturday, Oct. 6, hosting Grand Canyon University in a 5 p.m. contest at the Felix Event Center.