SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Less than a week after posting its biggest victory of the season, the NAIA's No. 4-ranked Point Loma Nazarene nearly laid its biggest egg of the campaign, but the Sea Lions were able to rally and stave off an Azusa Pacific upset by downing the Cougars, 30-21, 30-20, 26-30, 28-30, 15-9 in a marathon GSAC match in Golden Gymnasium tonight.
Last Saturday, Point Loma Nazarene rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 3 straight games and upset the NAIA's top-ranked Fresno Pacific, handing the Sunbirds their first conference loss in 2 years while snapping their 48-match conference winning streak. Against Azusa Pacific, the Sea Lions nearly reversed their fortunes, allowing a 2-0 lead to slip away and finding itself down 3-0 in the fifth and deciding game. However, All-American Rochelle Short came to the rescue and tallied 3 of her match-high 25 kills during a 9-1 run to right the Sea Lion ship and lead Point Loma back on track with a 9-4 fifth-game cushion, allowing the Sea Lions to cruise in for the victory, albeit with frayed nerves.
The Sea Lions drilled Azusa Pacific in the opening 2 games, attacking at an impressive 30% clip as a team. However, the wheels fell off in games 3 and 4, and Azusa Pacific took advantage. In game 3 alone, Point Loma Nazarene committed 18 errors between hitting, serving and blocking (PLNU had just 11 errors in the first 2 games combined), and the Cougars needed only 11 kills to win the game.
The Loma slide continued in game 4 with 16 more errors. However, Azusa Pacific forced the issue as well, this time collecting 16 kills, led by Maria Abaca's 4 kills in the game.
The Cougars, who have been in funk of their own by dropping 6 of their past 9 matches which induced a free-fall from the NAIA Coaches' Poll, seemingly was headed toward a Point Loma-like comeback when they opened the fifth game with 3 straight points to take a quick 3-0 lead. However, Azusa Pacific never got any closer to victory as Point Loma regained control of the game and eventually the match.
Abaca and All-American Jenna Sagehorn led the Cougars with a team-high 13 kills apiece. All-GSAC sophomore Jenny Brickner added 10 kills and continued to pace the GSAC's top blocking team by having a hand in 9 of the Cougars' 11 blocks.
With the victory, Point Loma Nazarene improves 22-2 overall, 13-2 in the GSAC. Azusa Pacific falls to 15-11 overall, 7-8 in the GSAC.