AZUSA, Calif. -- Just over three weeks after getting swept by Point Loma, the Azusa Pacific women's volleyball team earned its 11th three-set victory of the season, defeating the Sea Lions (25-18, 25-14, 25-19) Saturday in the Cougars return home.
"I thought we defended well and served well, and that is where we struggled last time we played them," said head coach Chris Keife. "I know they were struggling with a big injury, so that wasn't the same team we faced in San Diego, but our team performed well when we needed to perform well tonight."
Following four matches in Hawai`i and a road match against California Baptist, the Cougars returned to the Felix Event Center, where they had only dropped three sets in six matches this season entering the game against Point Loma.
"I love coming home. We are doing well at home," Keife said. "We are comfortable home and perform well here. It's tough being on the road for so long, so it was nice to come back."
Azusa Pacific continued its dominance with an outstanding defensive performance to knock Point Loma out of a tie for first place in the Pacific West Conference. The Cougars had 70 digs compared to 54 for the Sea Lions, whose attack percentage was held to a flat .000 by the Cougar defense.
Sophomore outside hitter Joy Reinke led the defense with 19 digs, and added a team-high 14 kills on 36 attacks with just two errors. It was the second time this season Reinke notched 14 kills in a match and her fourth double-double.
The Cougars' eighth conference win came on the heels of a tough loss. Less than 48 hours before taking the court against Point Loma, Azusa Pacific dropped a long five-set match against California Baptist.
"After having the long five-set loss to California Baptist on Thursday, we wanted to focus on one game at a time and one point at a time," Keife said. "We just wanted to take care of the match in front of us."
The Sea Lions turned to their pair of outside hitters Kelli LeClair and Heather Leavitt for offense. The two, which had 17 kills and four errors in their last meeting against the Cougars, combined for 82 of the teams 130 attacks, but were held to just 14 kills and 16 errors by Azusa Pacific.
The Cougars used a 9-1 run, in which four different Cougars had a kill, to take a 18-8 lead, which they held onto to take the first set 25-18. Azusa Pacific had an attack percentage at .133 compared to -.042 for the Sea Lions in the opening set.
In set two, the Cougars won 12 of the final 13 points and held PLNU to just five kills in the set to win the set 25-14. Azusa Pacific didn't give the PacWest's co-leader much hope of a comeback in the third set. After taking its latest lead in any set at 13-12, Point Loma dropped five consecutive points twice as the Cougars took the third set 25-19 for the team's first sweep over Point Loma since 2008.
Junior outside hitter Alicia Utke finished with 18 digs, seven kills, and two blocks, while sophomore libero Ashley Swatek tallied 14 digs for the Cougars.
“It started with our serving tonight. I thought we served well. Both of our outsides defended well as did Swatek, so any time we are getting good digs that's going to result in points for us,” said Keife.
Sophomore setters Jaden Louie and Tristan Racich had 24 and 14 assists respectively, and combined for eight digs. Senior 6-foot-4 middle blocker Christie Cain was one of three Cougars in the match with three blocks and also had six kills and two errors on 17 attacks.
With the win, Azusa Pacific is now 15-7 overall and 8-5 in conference-play. The Sea Lions slide down into second place in the PacWest behind BYU-Hawaii with a 12-2 conference record and are 19-5 overall.