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Cougars Continue To Rake In Honors

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Photo by Holly Magnuson
Six Azusa Pacific volleyball players received NCCAA honors following the Cougars' run to the national championship match.

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December 17, 2013
Chris Baker

AZUSA, Calif.-- After making a run to the National Christian College Athletics Association championship match, the Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball team had six players receive national honors, the NCCAA announced.

Senior middle blocker Christy Cain highlighted the list, taking home first team All-American recognition, along with being named to the NCCAA All-Tournament team. Sophomore outside hitter Mattie Shelford took home second-team All-American honors, while junior outside hitter Alicia Utke was named to the All-Tournament team. Junior hitter Hayley Beetstra, and defensive specialists Cori Esparza and Emily Ingalls were each given NCCAA Scholar Athlete honors.

“We had a great season and it’s a great honor to have so many awards for the outstanding individual play this season. Everyone on our team worked so hard this season, and as it goes for any individual awards, they wouldn’t be possible without the team success, and all season that’s what each of our players worked towards,” said head coach Chris Keife.

Cain saved her most productive season for last, leading the Cougars to the championship match of the NCCAA tournament, and the team’s 10th consecutive 20-win season. The senior finished with 386 kills and 120 blocks, and ranked No. 2 in the PacWest with a .361 attack percentage. She closes her career with 322 career blocks, ranking 10th on the program’s all-time list.

“Christy had an awesome senior year. She was a great leader for us, and of course her numbers were very good. She did a great job helping our team out, and we’ll definitely miss her on and off the court,” said Keife.

Shelford followed up her strong freshman campaign, with an impressive sophomore season. The Snohomish, Wash. native led the Cougars in kills with 387 behind a .258 attack percentage, while posting 73 blocks, adding to her All-PacWest season with a second-team All-American honor. Shelford registered a season-high 24 kills against Hawai’i Hilo, and had 14+ kills on five occasions.

“Mattie was so consistent for us all season. She always comes to play and we relied on her in crucial situations and she always came through. I’m excited to see her continue to grow, and it’s great to have her get recognized,” said Keife.

In her first season with the program Utke filled up the stat sheet, ranking in the team’s top-five in kills, aces, and digs. She tallied 526 digs to go with 332 kills, including 53 during the NCCAA tournament, helping Azusa Pacific advance to its first national semifinal and championship match since 1980. She paced the Cougars with 16 double-doubles, with three coming in postseason play, earning the junior out of Los Alamitos High School All-Tournament recognition.

“It was good that coaches recognized Alicia during the tournament. She did a great job defensively, and serving, and she really shined. She was given a tough task to jump right in and play, and she really did a good job in so many areas for us,” said Keife.

Beetstra, Esparza, and Ingalls each received NCCAA Scholar Athlete recognition, an award reserved for juniors and seniors with outstanding grade point averages. Beetstra, a communication major, tallied 125 kills in her junior season, while defensive specialists Ingalls (applied health major) and Esparza (business major) registered 100 and 91 digs respectively.

“It’s great. It shows that we not only have great athletes, but great student-athletes. I’m proud of their ability to juggle the demands of playing volleyball with the academic rigor of the classroom. The award is for how well they were able to manage their time and devote the little amounts of free time they had to studying, and it’s great to see their success” said Keife.

For the complete release of the 2013 NCCAA national violleyball awards Click Here.