30-21, 26-30, 30-23, 30-25
(AZUSA, Calif.) – Junior All-GSAC Jenna Sagehorn had a season- and match-high 22 kills and 20 digs to lead the NAIA’s No. 13-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 3-1 win over No. 20 Biola, 30-21, 26-30, 30-23, 30-25, in the opening round of the NAIA Region II Playoffs in Azusa.
The win places the Cougars (21-7) into Friday’s semifinals against top-seed Fresno Pacific at 7 p.m. in the Special Events Center in Fresno, Calif. Biola season comes to a close at 26-8.
It was another typical and thrilling Azusa Pacific/Biola affair. The Cougars came out red-hot, jumping out to an 11-1 lead in the opening game and never looking back. Biola got no closer than 5 points. However, the Eagles quickly turned the tables in the second game, jumping out to an 8-3 lead, and with the exception of a few ties, they led the rest of the way to knot the match at 1-1.
Again, the tide turned as the third game began. The Cougars retook the momentum, and aided by a pair of Maria Abaca aces and a pair of Jenny Brickner kills, jumped out to a 7-1 lead. Biola cut the deficit to 21-20, and after an Azusa Pacific timeout, Roxanna Mercer and Abaca sandwiched a pair of kills around a Biola attack error to give the Cougars an insurmountable 24-20 lead.
Then like a heavyweight fighter in a championship match, Biola bounced back up to surge ahead in the fourth game, taking leads of 5-0 and 8-4. Yet the Cougars were not to be denied as they climbed their way back into the match. Seven ties and 7 more lead changes were exchanged until Sagehorn capped the run with her final kill of the night to put the Cougars in front to stay at 25-24. Mercer followed with a pair of kills, and 3 Biola attack errors put the final nail in the coffin.
Four Cougars, led by Sagehorn’s 22, reached double figures in kills. Mercer and Abaca both finished with 14. Mercer added 10 digs and 3 blocks. Bricker finished with 10 kills and 5 blocks. Christy Kimmel ended the night with 9 kills and 8 digs, while Adrienne Pepe chipped in with 8 kills and 4 blocks.
All-GSAC Sarah Boogard led Biola with 18 kills and 9 digs. Fellow All-GSAC Michelle Warkentin added 15 kills, and Hannah Timboe chipped in with 11 kills and 14 digs.
So now the Cougars are possibly just one win away from advancing to the 2002 NAIA National Tournament Dec. 4-7 in San Diego, Calif. It would be their first tournament appearance since 2000. Even if the Cougars lose Friday to Fresno Pacific, a win in the third place game Saturday could earn the Cougars one of 5 at-large berths.