AZUSA, Calif.-- Since 2000 the Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team has played San Diego Christian 26 times, with the Cougars winning each and every one of those matchups, including 17 sweeps, against their then Golden State Athletic Conference foes. In the reinstallment of the lopsided rivalry there was just one minor change to the ongoing story: it wasn’t a GSAC match.
On Thursday Azusa Pacific (19-7) collected another sweep (25-15, 25-18, 25-19) of San Diego Christian, while junior hitter Jackie Landers efficiently put together one of her best performances to lift the Cougars to 19-7 before the team’s vital matchup with California Baptist on Saturday.
Landers not only recorded a match-high 17 kills, she did so without an error, finishing with a remarkable .607 attack percentage on 28 swings. The junior also added seven digs, two assists and a block, helping the Cougars extend their season-long winning streak to eight matches.
“I was just playing. There wasn’t anything special,” said Landers about her performance. “It was one of those crucial wins for us and I was happy to be out there playing with my team.”
Landers led all players in the first and second sets with seven and six kills respectively before tallying a team-high four in the third as Azusa Pacific posted its 16th sweep of the Hawks in the last 17 matches.
“Jackie did a great job tonight. She was efficient, obviously with no errors, had a lot of power and hit with a lot of range. She played really smart and mixed it up,” said head coach Chris Keife.
Azusa Pacific finished with a .337 attack percentage, and out-blocked San Diego Christian 9-6, with freshman middle blocker Ashley Vander Tuig leading the way with eight block assists. Sophie Burns dished out a match-high 31 assists, while adding four blocks and a kill, helping the Cougars get out of the Felix Event Center in just over an hour for their quickest match of the season.
“It’s always good to get out of here in three. We accomplished some things that we wanted to work on and now our focus shifts to California Baptist on Saturday,” said Keife. “It’s a big match for both teams involved. We’re excited to get back on the court and play a team of that quality.”
The Hawks’ attack hit at just .131 on the night, getting one-third of its kills from Juliana Gutknecht, who connected for a team-high 11. Freshman libero Ashley Swatek registered 15 digs, while Joy Reinke finished with seven digs, seven kills, and three blocks.
Azusa Pacific didn’t trail until the opening minutes of the final set when San Diego Christian jumped out to a 3-0 lead. The Cougars however, rallied back with a 6-0 run, and never relinquished their lead in the final frame, finalizing the victory on Christy Cain’s lone kill of the night.
Mattie Shelford, who came off a 19-kill performance against Point Loma, recorded three kills in the third set, finishing with seven in the match. Reinke and Landers each had four kills, while freshman setter Tristan Racich dished out seven of her nine assists in the set.
In the second set Lauren Edwards, who notched four of her seven kills in the second set, helped Azusa Pacific take an early 5-2 lead, but the Hawks rallied back with three of the next four points, eventually tying it at 7-7. The two teams traded the next 12 points before a handling error from San Diego Christian broke the spell to give the Cougars a 15-13 edge. Emily Ingalls’ ace then sparked a rally as Azusa Pacific took 10 of the next 15 points, taking the win on Landers’ sixth kill of the set.
In the opening game the Cougars raced to a 7-1 advantage and never looked back. The Hawks mounted a minor comeback to make it a 12-8 affair, but couldn’t hold off Azusa Pacific’s hitters, who combined for 13 kills at a.346 clip. The Cougars claimed the opening set on Shelford’s second kill of the match, winning 25-15 after holding the Hawks to just nine kills and a .067 percentage.
The sweep was the team’s seventh of the season, and third in the past eight matches. On Saturday the Cougars will try to keep their winning spree alive when they face a California Baptist team that spoiled Azusa Pacific’s home opener with a 3-1 defeat of the Cougars on Oct. 11. The Lancers are currently holding onto third place in the PacWest with a 9-3 record, while Azusa Pacific is tied for fourth with Grand Canyon (Ariz.) at 9-5.