KISSIMMEE, Fla.-- After defeating Shorter (Ga.) to advance to the National Christian College Athletics Association national championship, the Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team fell 3-1 to Point Loma in the title game on Saturday at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Kissimmee, Fla. The Cougars opened the day with an impressive, albeit it narrow, 3-1 (23-25, 2520, 25-23, 25-23) win over the Hawks prior having just an hour break before facing off with a Point Loma team that defeated Azusa Pacific 3-2 in the West Region final.
Against the Sea Lions the Cougars fell behind 2-0, but responded with a dominating 25-15 third set win to keep their season alive. Point Loma, however, built an early 12-6 lead in the fourth, and held off a resilient Cougar team to claim the 2013 national championship 25-21, 25-20, 15-25, 25-19.
The Cougars were making their first national semifinal appearance since 1980, and advanced to the team’s first title match in over 30 years after defeating the Hawks in four sets. In the match Azusa Pacific outhit Shorter .141 to .117, led by middle blocker Christy Cain’s 14 kills on 35 swings. The senior also had a hand in six blocks, tabbing four solo stuffs and two block assists. Cain registered 25 kills in her final day of collegiate action.
Setters Jaden Louie and Tristan Racich combined for 86 assists on the day, while junior hitter Alicia Utke finished with 19 kills and 44 digs, including a match-high 32 digs in the win over Shorter.
Sophomore hitters Joy Reinke and Mattie Shelford recorded 19 and 18 kills respectively, and Ashley Swatek tallied 43 digs.
In the championship match, which was the fourth meeting between the two teams this year, Point Loma took the opening two sets 25-21, and 25-20. The Cougars trailed by as many as seven points in the first game, but came back to make it a 22-21 contest on a Reinke kill. But the Sea Lions ended the Cougars’ comeback with three straight points to go ahead 1-0.
The second set was much tighter, with neither team taking more than a two-point lead through the first 40 points. But after the score was tied at 19-19 the Sea Lions went on a 5-0 run behind four kills and a block to take a commanding 24-19 lead, which turned into a 25-20 win.
In the third set Azusa Pacific came out firing, jumping out to a 15-5 lead with Shelford, Utke, Reinke, and Ashley Midland all posting kills in the run. Point Loma never got within eight points from then on, and a Reinke kill sealed a 10-point third set victory.
In the fourth set it was the Sea Lions who took an early advantage, taking a 12-6 lead before the Cougars responded with a 7-1 run to knot it at 13-13. Point Loma, however, used a run of its own, scoring five straight to grab an 18-13 lead. The Cougars kept it close down the stretch, pulling within three points at 22-19, but Point Loma secured the championship on Heather Leavitt’s 24th kill of the match as the Sea Lions improved to 3-1 against Azusa Pacific this season.
Midland registered seven kills on 14 attempts, and added four block assists. Beetstra had two kills against Point Loma, and finished the afternoon with seven kills. Lauren Edwards tabbed five kills against Shorter, and added two aces, two digs, and two block assists.
With the loss Azusa Pacific ends its season at 26-11, the program’s 10th consecutive 20-win season. The Cougars, who are in year No. 3 of NCAA Division II candidacy may be eligible for Division II postseason play upon receiving full NCAA membership next season.