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Grand Canyon Edges Cougars In Five

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Photo by Holly Magnuson
Senior setter Sophie Burns registered a career-high 53 assists, and Lauren Edwards notched a career-high 17 kills, but No. 13-ranked Grand Canyon posted a five-set win over Azusa Pacific Saturday night.

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October 6, 2012
Jared Pine
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AZUSA, Calif. –- Grand Canyon, ranked No. 13 in NCAA Division II, backed up its four-set victory over Azusa Pacific last week with a five-set win (22-25, 25-15, 25-23, 14-25, 15-8) over the Cougars in the Felix Event Center Saturday night.

The Antelopes bounced back from a first set defeat to claim the five-set victory over Azusa Pacific, which was the second consecutive five-set match for Grand Canyon. In all, the ‘Lopes played 10 sets during a span of just 24 hours after going five sets with California Baptist Friday night.

Trailing 8-7 in the fifth set, the 'Lopes scored eight unanswered points to win the match, led by Janae Giles, who had three kills during that stretch. Giles had five total kills in the final set, which gave her 13 in the match.

On the second point of the fifth set, senior setter Sophie Burns set junior outside hitter Jackie Landers for a kill, which pushed Burns' assist total to a career-high 49 in the match, passing her previous best of 48, set earlier in the year against Cal State Dominguez Hills. Burns finished the match with 53 assists.

In the third set, the Antelopes had another scoring run that changed the balance of the match. With the Cougars sitting on a large 20-15 lead, the visiting team rattled off seven consecutive points on kills by five different Grand Canyon hitters along with a pair of Cougar errors. Three of those Antelopes each added another kill to complete the comeback and give Grand Canyon a 2-1 lead in the match.

Libero Mackenzie Phelps neutralized the Cougar offense, which had just 13 kills on 47 attacks in the third set, with 14 of her match-high 34 digs coming in the third set alone.

"We were up 20-15 in the third set, and we stopped being aggressive," Cougar head coach Chris Keife said. "We weren't aggressive on our serves or attacking. We played as though we were hoping for an error instead of making plays on our own."

In the first set, the Cougars trailed Grand Canyon by as much as five at 18-13. However, junior right side Lauren Edwards had three kills as the Cougars won seven consecutive points to take the lead. Then on set point, freshman outside hitter Joy Reinke got a kill, giving Azusa Pacific an early advantage.

Edwards finished the match with a career-high 17 kills with only three errors, while Reinke tallied 16 kills and 13 digs on the night.

"Lauren [Edwards] was exceptional tonight," Keife said. "She came in and executed tonight. She isn't the tallest player on the team, but tonight she was the most effective on the court for us. Her serving was great and she defended well."

Grand Canyon responded with a decisive second set win, 25-15. Setter Kristen Peach, who had 45 assists in the match, registered three kills in the second set on just five attacks.

In the fourth set, the Cougars went on an 11-3 scoring run to win the set 25-14 and force a fifth set. Reinke had three kills on the final five points of that run and had a .286 attack percentage in the set.

"I thought we did a lot of things well tonight," Keife said. "We passed well, we served well, and played really well for the majority of the match. There were two times where we just struggled with not performing, and those are the two that hurt us in the end."

The Cougars had 41 total errors compared to just 29 for the Antelopes. Azusa Pacific had an attack percentage under .150 in all three sets it lost, while Grand Canyon had a .301 attack percentage over those three sets.

The loss gives Azusa Pacific its first three-match losing streak since 2006, as the Cougars fall to 11-6 overall and 3-4 in the Pacific West Conference. Grand Canyon improves to 15-3 overall and 5-3 in conference with the win.

"The reality is that we have been in every single match that we have lost," Keife added. "That is the tough thing for the girls, but they are holding their heads high, working hard, and wanting to get better. We just need to buckle down and execute for longer periods of time."

The Cougars embark on a four-match PacWest road trip to Hawaii next week.