SAN DIEGO, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team opened the season with a split on Friday, although it nearly came away with a sweep at the Seaside Invitational, hosted by Point Loma. The Cougars posted a 3-1 victory (23-25, 25-9, 25-14, 25-15) over Texas A&M International in the morning, and almost nabbed a come-from-behind win against Cal State Dominguez Hills in the afternoon, falling in five sets (25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 20-25, 15-10), to the Toros after a career-day from senior middle blocker Christy Cain.
Cain matched her career-high 14 kills at a blistering .542 clip in the opener, and bested it against CSUDH with 16 kills in the team’s five-set loss. The senior also keyed a Cougar rally against the Toros in the fourth set as they overcame a six point deficit to close the set on an 18-7 run, and push the match to a fifth game.
“Christy looked fantastic today. She did very well. We were feeding her a lot of balls, and she was attacking above everyone. She was scoring a lot of points because where she’s hitting and attacking the ball nobody can touch her,” said head coach Chris Keife..
In the opener the Cougars dropped the first set 25-23, but settled in nicely after that, outscoring A&M 75-38 over three dominating games. Azusa Pacific had three players with double-digit kills, and posted a .283 attack percentage. The Cougars also added 10 blocks, including a match-high 4.5 from senior middle Lauren Edwards.
“In the first match I thought we came out sluggish. We were anxious to get playing again, so we came out a little tense and sloppy. But after the first set we settled in and got a good rhythm,” said Keife. “I thought Lauren did a great job giving us a spark off the bench and playing well despite being sick. I thought Ashley Midland had a nice match against Cal State Dominguez Hills, and I liked what I saw out of her today.”
Sophomore setters Tristan Racich and Jaden Louie split time on the court, combining for 92 assists, including a career-high 47 from Racich in the win. Louie notched 31 assists against CSUDH, helping the team to 55 kills in the loss.
Alicia Utke had an impressive showing in her debut, finishing with two double-doubles and 18 kills, while registering seven aces, including a match-high (5) in the win. Joy Reinke tallied 11 kills and 17 digs against A&M, and finished with seven kills and 17 digs against CSUDH.
Freshman Ashley Midland had an efficient outing against the Toros, posting nine kills on 14 attempts. Junior outside hitter Hayley Beetstra tallied 10 kills on the day, and added four block assists. Sophomore libero Ashley Swatek recorded a team-high 40 digs on the day.
In the loss to CSUDH the Cougars narrowly dropped the first set, falling 25-23 after holding a 19-14 lead. In the ensuing game Azusa Pacific took a quick 5-1 lead, but the Toros knotted it at 11-11. The Cougars then sprinted back ahead 17-12 after an Utke Kill ignited a 5-1 run as Azusa Pacific netted a 25-19 win.
Neither team led by more than one through the first 35 points of the third set, but CSUDH pulled away late, scoring nine of the final 13 points. In the fourth it looked like the Toros were on their way to notching a four-set win, leading 13-7 early on. But Azusa Pacific pulled it together, getting kills from six different players over an 18-7 stretch, capped by an Utke kill. In the fifth the Toros used a 7-3 spurt to clinch the match, pushing an 8-7 game into a 15-10 decision.
“I thought we played poorly against Cal State Dominguez Hills. They’re a good team and got the better of us today, but we need to find a way to put more pressure on our opponent. In the first set, when we had that lead, I felt like our players were waiting for them to mess up and give us the game. But they didn’t, they took advantage of the situation and made us pay. We need to learn how to control the match. We had some issues today with it being our first few matches of the season, but the thing about the struggles we had is that they’re all fixable, and that’s a good thing,” said Keife.
Azusa Pacific returns to action Saturday with another doubleheader. The Cougars will face Cal State Stanislaus at 9 a.m., before closing the weekend against Montana State-Billings at 1 p.m.