Azusa Pacific 3, Cal Baptist 1
Azusa Pacific has picked a great time to gain momentum. With just 3 games left in the regular-season, the Cougars defeated Cal Baptist, 22-30, 31-29, 30-23, 30-21, for their fourth straight win and 13th in the past 14 matches.
The Cougars, who earlier in the day moved up to No. 5 in the NAIA rankings, the highest ranking in school history, remain in a dead heat for the all-important second place in the GSAC standings. With a playoff spot all but wrapped up, the Cougars (14-3 GSAC) are just ½ game ahead of Point Loma (13-3) for second place and a first-round bye in upcoming NAIA Region II Playoffs.
The Cougars host No. 13 Westmont Saturday, travel to Christian Heritage Tuesday (Nov. 12), and then finish the regular-season with a showdown against No. 9-ranked Pont Loma Thursday (Nov. 14) in Azusa.
Tonight, sophomore Maria Abaca led all players with 20 kills, as the Cougars were pushed to the limit by a pesky Cal Baptist squad. The Lancers had won a season-high 3 matches in a row coming in and seemed primed to make it 4 in a row with a huge upset.
Cal Baptist jumped all over the Cougars taking a 15-9 lead in the opening game. The Cougars closed the gap at 19-18 and had a chance to tie the game, but the Lancers reeled off 11 of the next 15 points to slam the door with a 30-22 win.
The second game began much the same way with the Lancers opening up leads of 5-1, 10-5 and 14-9 before the Cougars fought back to tie the game 14-14. From there the action went back-and-forth as the match was tied 9 times, and the lead changed hands another 9 times. Down 29-27, the Cougars turned to All-American Jenna Sagehorn, who’s kill gave the Cougars the serve for good down 29-28. A pair of Cal Baptist attack errors turned the tide, and another Sagehorn kill put the game away for the Cougars, 31-29.
Not ready to give in, the Lancers opened up a 6-0 lead in the third game. That seemed to wake up the Cougars, who tied the game at 7-7. Again, the game went back-and-forth when the Cougars tied it one last time at 21-21. That’s when Abaca went to work. She scored 3 of the next 4 points burying 3 kills around a CBU attack error. Adrienne Pepe added a kill at the tail end of Abaca’s run and right before another CBU attack error, and by the time the dust settled, the Cougars comfortably led 27-21.
From then on out, it was all Cougars, who put the match away with a sparkling performance in the fourth and final game. The Cougars hit .293 in the final game and limited Cal Baptist to just .190.
Sagehorn aided Abaca’s effort with 13 kills and 17 digs of her own. Fresman MB Jenny Brickner added 11 kills and 5 blocks. Pepe finished with 9 kills and 6 blocks. Senior T.J. Gause had a match-high 25 digs.
With the win, Azusa Pacific moves to 19-5 overall, 14-3 GSAC. The Cougars continue with their record-setting pace, off to their best start since their national championship season of 1980. Cal Baptist drops to 15-16, 6-11.