HAYWARD, Calif.-- It was an up and down day at the Route 92 Showdown as the Cougar women’s volleyball team grabbed its third consecutive sweep before suffering its second loss of the season on Friday night. Azusa Pacific (4-2) kicked off day one of the two-day, two-site tournament with a 3-0 win (33-31, 25-12, 25-22) over Northwest Nazarene (Idaho), and ended it with a 3-0 loss (25-18, 25-11, 25-22) to tournament host Cal State East Bay. It was the first time the Cougars have been swept since a 3-0 road loss to Biola last November, ending the team’s three-match winning streak.
The Cougar defense was strong in the opener, limiting the Crusaders to a .105 attack percentage. But the Pioneers, playing in just their second home match, gave Azusa Pacific fits with a trio of 10+ kill players helping the team to a .357 attack percentage, by far the highest by a Cougar opponent this season. Ashia Joseph finished with a match-high 43 assists while Katie Allen’s 13 kills led all players.
Sophomore outside hitter Mattie Shelford, who played sparingly last weekend due to injuries, returned to form on Friday, recording a team-high 24 kills on the day, while Alicia Utke posted her third straight double-double in the win before being held to a season-low three kills in the loss. Shelford was the Cougars lone player with double-figure kills, notching 11 on 21 swings against Cal State East Bay (2-4).
Christy Cain continued her dominant play, combining for 13 kills and a block, while Hayley Beetstra finished with four kills.Jaden Louie paced Azusa Pacific with 22 assists against Northwest Nazarene, while Tristan Racich registered 25 in the loss to Cal State East Bay.
Three players registered double-digit kills against the Crusaders, with Utke and Shelford pacing the Cougars with three kills apiece. Utke also nabbed her third straight double-double with a team-high 20 digs while hitting .257 in the match. Reinke had an efficient performance, tabbing 10 kills on 28 swings (.357) as the Cougars handled the Northwest Nazarene in straight sets, although Northwest Nazarene made Azusa Pacific sweat in the opening set.
In the first game the Cougars overcame two set-points to rally for a 33-31 win, fighting back from a 24-22 hole thanks to a Shelford kill and a Cori Esparza ace before the Cougars brought it to 26-all. Over the final 12 points Utke and Reinke combined for four kills to seal a 1-0 lead. Esparza finished with a team-high three aces in the match.
The Cougars never trailed in the second, and eventually pulled their lead to as many as 10 in a quick 25-15 win. In the third set Azusa Pacific jumped out to a 15-10 lead on Reinke’s sixth kill of the game. But the Crusaders responded with a 10-5 run to knot it at 20-20 following a 5-0 spurt by NNU. Azusa Pacific, however, held off the Crusaders’ late surge with a pair of Shelford kills over a 5-2 match-clinching run.
Ashley Midland tallied five kills on seven attempts and added three block assists, while Ashley Swatek recorded seven digs finishing with 13 on the day.
The Cougars will close out the Route 92 Showdown on Saturday, where they’ll look to avoid posting back-to-back losses for the first time this year against Seattle Pacific at 11 a.m. Azusa Pacific will then take on Cal State Monterey Bay at 3 p.m. before opening its home slate against San Diego Christian on Tuesday night.