AZUSA, Calif. -- In a rare deviation from the conference schedule, the NAIA’s No. 15-ranked Azusa Pacific struggled to find its rhythm in the first 2 games of the match but righted the ship and went on to post a 3-1 (24-30, 30-28, 30-18, 30-12) victory over the NCAA Division III’s No. 6-ranked La Verne.
Chelsea Morgan and Jessica DeJager combined for 37 kills and 15 digs in leading the Cougars to their third consecutive win.
The Cougars (16-5) and the Leopards (11-7) were tied at 7 apiece in the first game before La Verne scored 9 of the next 12 points to seize command of the game. Tiona Hobson led the Leopards with 4 kills in the game 1 win.
“The girls just didn’t come out prepared tonight,” said head coach Chris Keife. “They were just not ready and wanted to cruise.”
However, Azusa Pacific bounced back and won game 2, 30-28, before really elevating its play. The second game was a tight battle and was knotted at 23 when Mandy Sedia seemed to be involved on every point in trying to win the game for La Verne.
After a DeJager kill gave the Cougars a 24-23 lead Sedia tied the game with a kill of her own. Burch put a ball away for a 25-24 advantage preceding a Sedia error. With a 26-24 lead, Sedia tied the game up with a kill and block.
After a Sedia attack error gave Azusa Pacific a 28-27 lead, Morgan kept the Leopards at bay with a pair of kills sandwiched around a Leopard point to give the Cougars the win.
At that point momentum had shifted in the match and the Cougars began to elevate their play.
“We have a high level of expectation on this team and I was happy with our play in games 3 and 4. Hopefully tomorrow the girls will be ready from the beginning,” said Keife.
In game 3, clinging to a 7-6 advantage, the Cougars scored the next 4 points, including 2 on a pair of kills by Megan Burch to widen their lead to 11-6. Azusa Pacific continued to keep the pressure on the tiring Leopards as it hit .366 in the game with 18 kills and only 3 attack errors.
Azusa Pacific closed out the match in grand fashion sprinting to a 13-2 lead en route to a 30-12 win.
Jenny Brickner had 14 kills and 5 blocks in the win. Colleen Walker had 12 kills and 7 digs.
The Cougars must now turn around and face Point Loma Nazarene tomorrow night as they resume GSAC play with a new experience in hand. “Tonight was a good win for us and I think we learned some things we want to get better at,” assessed Keife.