IRVINE, Calif. -- It was pushed to the limit, but the NAIA’s No. 18-ranked Azusa Pacific held tight and eventually closed the door and picked up a GSAC road win over Concordia in four games, 30-21, 29-31, 30-28, 33-31, Thursday night in Irvine.
The Cougars, who played catch-up for most of the night, needed more than 2 hours to get the job done in a closely fought battle. Throughout the 4 games the teams traded leads 16 times and saw the score tied on 33 other occasions.
Concordia led 11-3 at the outset, but after an 11-2 lead, the Cougars wrestled both the momentum and the lead (14-13) from the Eagles. With the game tied, 17-17, the Cougars, spearheaded by 3-time All-American Jenna Sagehorn’s 5 kills, outscored the Eagles 13-4 to take the opening game.
In a near carbon-copy, the Eagles opened up an early 9-5 lead in the second game. The Cougars answered with 6 straight points and eventually took an 18-13 lead. However, Concordia had an answer of their own with 7 straight points to take a 20-18 lead it would not relinquish.
In a thrilling third game, the Eagles and Cougars battled through 8 ties and 6 lead changes until the Eagles seemingly took control with a 23-19 lead. However, the Cougars again refused to go quietly, coming all the way back to tie the game, 23-23. After trading points, Concordia held a 28-27 lead but the Cougars scored the final 4 points to take a commanding 2-1 lead.
As was the case in the first 2 games, Concordia took an early lead, 10-6, in the fourth game. This time, however, Azusa Pacific battled back but struggled to get over the hump, tying the game on several occasions. The Cougars gained their first lead at 29-28 and then sweated out the final few points until eventually getting a 33-31 win to clinch the match.
Sagehorn recorded a match-high 18 kills to go along with 18 digs. Roxanna Mercer had a match-high 19 digs, and Jenny Brickner recorded four blocks.
Azusa Pacific has now won 7 of its last 8 matches to improve to 10-3 on the season, 2-0 in the GSAC.