AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific picked up where it left off after last week’s sweep over nationally-ranked Fresno Pacific, posting a convincing 25-20, 25-22, 25-13 sweep over Holy Names Thursday night to improve to 2-0 in Pacific West Conference play.
Setters Tristan Racich and Jaden Louie orchestrated a balanced attack which featured five hitters with at least six kills. The pair combined for 41 assists (22 for Racich, 19 for Louie), helping senior middle blocker Lauren Edwards lead the offense with eight kills on just 13 attempts for an outstanding .538 hitting percentage. Five of Edwards’ kills came off sets from Racich, with three more from Louie, including the match-clinching point in the final set.
The Cougars never trailed, jumping out to at least a four-point lead early in three sets that all played out in much different fashion. In the opening set, Holy Names tied the score three times and were still within a point as late as 20-19 before a service error and a kill from Cain helped Azusa Pacific finish on a 5-1 run.
The Cougars used an 11-3 burst in the middle of set two to lead by as many as 11 points and get to game point with a 10-point edge (24-14), but Holy Names stayed alive by reeling off eight points in a row to pull within 24-22. Sophomore outside hitter Joy Reinke finished off the set with one of her team-high nine kills, however, and she added another during a 6-1 run to open up the third set.
“We needed to be a little bit more focused mentally, because we relaxed a little when we got to 24 in the second set. We waited for an error instead of taking it upon ourselves to finish the set,” Cougar head coach Chris Keife said. “Our focus is on how we control our side of the net, and we didn’t do a great job of that in set two, but outside of that run we had a pretty good match. I wanted to see our team find a way to play their way out of that second set, and I was happy to see them respond before it was too late.”
With an 8-5 lead in the third, another Reinke kill helped Azusa Pacific score seven of the next eight points to extend the lead to 15-6, with junior opposite hitter Hayley Beetstra registering three kills in the burst. The Cougars led by at least seven points the rest of the way, finishing off the match with four consecutive points to cruise to the victory.
“We just needed to keep swinging hard and not let ourselves begin to play timidly,” said Edwards, who had four of her eight kills in the third set. “We were tipping a lot late in the second set, so in that last set we just wanted to go hard and play physical.”
Junior outside hitter Alicia Utke tallied seven kills, of which five came in the opening set. Junior middle blocker Christy Cain and sophomore outside hitter Mattie Shelford collected six kills each, while Cain also had a hand in three of the team’s seven blocks. Utke and sophomore libero Ashley Swatek led the Cougars in digs with 12 each, and Cain shared the team blocking lead with freshman Ashley Midland who matched Cain with three block assists.
Holy Names, which fell to 0-12 overall and 0-4 in the PacWest, was led by Rachel Vartanian, who finished with 12 kills, and Melissa Munley, who collected seven kills to go with a team-high 12 digs. Jessica Pena had five blocks, including two solo blocks, all in the first two sets of the match.
With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 9-2 overall, securing seven of its nine victories by a three-set sweep, and adding the Cougars’ two conference wins of 2013 to last year’s finish makes them 9-1 over their last 10 PacWest matches.
Azusa Pacific resumes the five-match homestand Saturday at 5 p.m. against a Dominican team that is 1-10 overall and seeking its first conference victory of the season.