SAN DIEGO, Calif.-- The Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team showed impressive resilience in the NCCAA West Region final, fighting back from a 2-0 hole and two match points to push Point Loma to five sets before ultimately falling 3-2 (25-18, 25-17, 24-26, 19-25, 15-9) to the Sea Lions on Friday night.
The Cougars, who traded sweeps with Point Loma during the regular season, stared at a 24-22 deficit in the third set before going on a 4-0 run behind kills from three different players, keeping the team’s hopes at an automatic bid to the NCCAA national championships alive.
Azusa Pacific then pulled away late in the fourth set, closing on a 7-1 run to tie the match at 2-2. But with the deciding set knotted at 8-8 the Sea Lions put the comeback bid to rest, locking up the West Region title with an 7-1 spurt to seal a 3-2 victory.
“Credit to our girls for continuing to grind through, even when their backs were against the wall. They did a great job of extending the match. Point Loma played very well in the first two sets. In the third set we served and passed really well and it got us back in the match. We were in a rhythm and serving well,” said head coach Chris Keife.
Azusa Pacific had three players finish with double-figure kills, and had four players tally 10+ digs. The Cougars (21-10) posted a .213 attack percentage, and hit .417 and .333 in their two winning sets.
Joy Reinke and Jaden Louie each registered double-doubles in the loss, with Reinke tabbing 12 kills and a match-high 17 digs, while Louie dished out 29 assists and added 13 digs. Ashley Midland came off the bench and recorded five kills and six block assists, and Mattie Shelford finished with 14 kills, four block assists, and one solo block.
“Ashley, Joy, and Mattie all did a good job tonight. We did a really nice job with our serve receive, and I was proud of the way we competed against a really good Point Loma team,” said Keife.
Alicia Utke had nine kills and 13 digs, while senior middle blocker Christy Cain had 12 kills and five blocks (four assists, one solo). Tristan Racich dished out 11 assists, and sophomore libero Ashley Swatek added 10 digs and five assists.
With the loss the Cougars will have to wait until Sunday to see if they will receive an at-large bid to the NCCAA national championships. Azusa Pacific ranked 12th in the final NCCAA Burbridge rating.