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Sunbirds Thwart Upset Bid

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October 7, 2003
Micah McDaniel
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Fresno Pacific 3
Azusa Pacific 1

FRESNO, Calif. -- The NAIA’s No. 20-ranked Azusa Pacific had upset in mind, but No. 2 Fresno Pacific put to rest any possibilities with a strong effort late in the match to take a 28-30, 30-25, 30-13, 30-19 win over the Cougars in Fresno.

The loss is the Cougars’ fourth in a row, their worst losing skid since 1999 when they lost 5 straight. It is also their 23rd straight loss to Fresno Pacific, dating back to 1994.

In the opening game, Fresno Pacific opened an 11-4 lead, but the Cougars climbed back and at 13-10 the Sunbirds’ 3-time NAIA All-American Lin Gao left the match with an injury to her left arm. The Cougars jumped on the opportunity and tied the game at 22-22 before winning 30-28.

Still playing well, the Cougars jumped to an 8-3 lead in game 2 and seemed ready to snap their 10-year drought against the Sunbirds. Azusa Pacific led 18-15 when Gao re-entered the game in the back row. Her appearance instantly ignited the Sunbirds, while at the same appeared to deflate the Cougars.

The Cougars led 20-19 when a Sunbird block tied the match. Three more blocks and a Cougars’ hitting error put the Sunbirds in the driver’s seat to a 30-25 win.

The Sunbirds led 14-12 in game 3 when after an APU time out, the Sunbirds reeled off 16 of the next 17 points to dominate their way to a 30-13 win. Game 4 was much of the same as the Sunbirds opened up a 14-6 lead. The Cougars closed it to 14-11 but got no closer the rest of the way and were outscored 16-8 to close the match.

Sophomore All-GSAC Jenny Brickner led the Cougars with 13 kills and 5 blocks. Senior All-American Jenna Sagehorn recorded 12 kills, 7 digs and 5 blocks. With her 12 kills, Sagehorn ties former Cougar Stephanie Benitez (1991-95) with 1,515 kills atop Azusa Pacific’s career kills list.

After nearly a 3 week absence, Roxanna Mercer returned to the lineup and recorded 10 digs while being limited to solely back row duty.

Azusa Pacific is now 12-8 overall, 4-5 GSAC. The Cougars host The Master’s College Thursday (Oct. 9) at 7 p.m. Fresno Pacific remains unbeaten at 23-0, 9-0.