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Sunbirds Block Upset Bid

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Published
November 11, 2003
By
Micah McDaniel
Fresno Pacific 3
Azusa Pacific 2

AZUSA, Calif. -- Fresno Pacific is ranked No. 2 in the NAIA, and it showed why, as the Sunbirds overcame a sluggish start and its first 0-2 deficit to an NAIA team this year to post a 24-30, 24-30, 30-11, 30-20, 15-11 win over Azusa Pacific.

The win extends the Sunbirds’ streak over the Cougars to 25 straight, a streak that dates back to 1994, and it is also their 18th straight win in Azusa, a span that stretches to 1984.

Mesha Wimer had a match-high 26 kills, 8 of them in the match-tying fourth game, so it was only fitting that she started the Sunbird comeback with a kill in the third game and then ended the match with her 26th kill of the night.

The Cougars jumped out of the gate, mixing together another fine performance with a rough Sunbird start, benefiting from the 24 Sunbirds attack errors just 5 fewer errors than the Cougars had kills in the first 2 game alone.

Katrina Anker finished with 12 kills, and she registered 3 consecutive kills to break a 21-21 tie in the first game, lifting the Cougars’ to a 24-21 lead. Fresno Pacific got within 24-23 but then had 3 straight attack errors allowing the Cougars to take control of the opening game.

After breaking a 5-5 tie in the second game on a Jenna Sagehorn kill, the Cougars exploded on a 10-2 run to blow open a 15-7 lead, again taking advantage of 4 Sunbird attack errors. The Cougars then used a balanced attack to keep the Sunbirds at a distance. The Sunbirds got within 4 points (27-23) on back-to-back Cougar errors, but 2 more Sunbird attack errors and an unlikely kill from libero Joelle Sagehorn gave the Cougars a game 2 win and a 2-0 lead.

At that point the Sunbirds suddenly awoke and cruised through the third game to get back in the match. Holding a 2-1 lead, Kara Verway took serve and reeled off 9 straight points to open an 11-1 Sunbird lead. The Cougars scored the next 2 points on a Jenny Brickner kill and a Courtney Fox ace, but the Sunbirds answered with 4 straight points and kept the Cougars at a double-digit deficit the rest of the way.

Azusa Pacific led 8-6 in the fourth game when the Sunbirds scored 8 of the next 9 points to take a 14-9 lead. The Cougars got no closer than 3 points the rest of the way as Wimer registered 8 of her kills in the fourth game, 7 of them during the Sunbirds’ game-clinching run.

The Sunbirds then flexed their muscle in the fifth game, taking a 4-1 lead. They opened up a 10-5 advantage, before the Cougars closed to within 10-9 on 3 straight setting errors. However, the Sunbirds never let the Cougars get over the hump, reeling off the final 3 points of the match.

Sagehorn led the Cougars with 13 kills and 14 digs, Roxanna Mercer had 9 kills and 18 digs. Jenny Bricker finished with 11 kills and 9 blocks. Lin Gao added 22 kills and a match-high 28 digs as the Sunbirds had 4 players in double-figure kills and 5 players with double-digit digs.

With the loss, Azusa Pacific drops to 17-13 overall, 9-10 GSAC. Fresno Pacific improves to 32-2, 18-1 and clinches the GSAC title outright.