FRESNO, Calif. -- In a match-up of 2 of the NAIA’s best, Fresno Pacific defeated Azusa Pacific, 3-0, to strengthen its grip on the top ranking in the country.
The Sunbirds (12-0, 4-0) endured a close start and knocked off the Cougars (11-3, 3-2) 30-15, 30-26, 30-20.
Azusa Pacific came into the match ranked fifth in the country and gave No. 1 all it could handle at the outset of the first game. The teams traded points until the Cougars cut the deficit to 12-11 on a kill by Jessica DeJager. The Sunbirds then won 13 of the next 14 points to take a commanding 25-12 lead en route to the game 1 victory.
Fresno Pacific hit a crisp .459 to keep the Cougars, who hit .148, at bay in the opening game.
The second game was hotly contested as Azusa Pacific tried to claw its way back into the match. With the score tied at 9, the Cougars reeled off 3 consecutive points courtesy of a bad set by Lira Xavier and back-to-back kills by DeJager.
However, the Sunbirds bounced back with the help of a resuscitated Xavier to knot the game at 15. Azusa Pacific then hurt its own cause by committing 3 service errors in as many tries as the game progressed to keep the Sunbirds close. After taking a momentary 19-18 lead, the Cougars then watched the game slowly slip from their grasp as Thais Julio snapped off a pair of kills to give Fresno Pacific a 21-20 lead it would not relinquish in winning by 4.
Despite the Cougars best efforts; they could not climb back into the match by winning the third game. However, it was a test for Fresno Pacific. The Cougars only trailed 16-15 after a Brittany Pierce attack error. The Sunbirds committed 10 attack errors in the third game alone and Azusa Pacific took full advantage by keeping the game close.
However, Fresno Pacific answered by reeling off 9 of the next 10 points to take open things up and thwart any Cougar comeback notions.
Chelsea Morgan led Azusa Pacific with 9 kills. Allison Kincheloe had 29 assists and 10 digs.
The loss is the second straight for the Cougars, the first consecutive defeats they have suffered this season.
Azusa Pacific will take the court next against The Master’s on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Felix Event Center at 7 p.m.