LA MIRADA, Calif. -- With 5 out of the 6 teams in the Golden State Athletic Conference either in the NAIA’s top 25 or receiving votes to be placed there it seems like every match is a contest that sees No. 15-ranked Azusa Pacific paired with another of the nation’s best.
Tonight was no exception as the Cougars faced No. 21-ranked Biola in a rematch of a 5-game nail biter they had won back on Sept. 13. The outcome of this meeting was the same except Azusa Pacific made quick work of the Eagles, defeating them 3-0 (30-26, 30-24, 30-22), in La Mirada, Calif.
The win boosts the Cougars overall record to an impressive 18-5 but also moves them to 9-4 in conference play. Azusa Pacific entered the night tied with Concordia for third place in the GSAC and strengthened its grasp on its current position with the win combined with fourth place Vanguard’s loss to California Baptist.
Jessica DeJager had a match-high 17 kills to go along with 6 digs in the win. Meanwhile, Chelsea Morgan added 14 kills and 5 digs.
The Cougars got another solid performance from middle blocker Jenny Brickner who hit .529 with 10 kills and 4 blocks. She recorded a solo block to break an 11-11 tie in the first game as part of a 6 consecutive Cougar points. Azusa Pacific, which has had a recent trend of starting slow, turned an 11-8 deficit into a 13-11 advantage en route to the game 1 win.
“We have started out slow the past 4 matches but tonight we came out a little more relaxed and focused,” said head coach Chris Keife.
Brickner concurred, “It was a great match for us tonight because we started out playing in system right from the start. We were being physical and our hitters were really getting after the ball.”
The solo block was the 106th of Brickner’s career which moves her into fifth place on Azusa Pacific’s all-time list, breaking a tie with former Cougar Lenee Hill. She also had 3 assist blocks which gives her 382 in her career – only 6 shy of the school record. However, her blocking isn’t the only quality she brings to the table.
“This year she has stepped up off the court with her leadership. She has also been efficient and smarter with her sets,” said Keife.
Moving up the chart was an ironic twist for her. “Tonight I was frustrated with my blocking,” said Brickner. “This year I have been learning more what blocking is about and how I don’t have to touch as many balls as I did before. I’m realizing how much more I have to work on.”
That might not be good news for the rest of the conference considering the Cougars’ torrid play. Azusa Pacific has won its past 5 matches and 7 of its past 9. With several big matches looming the team has yet to peak.
“We have been improving as a team and hopefully we can peak at the end of the season but there are still a lot of areas we can improve on,” said Keife.
Azusa Pacific went on to sweep the Eagles winning the final 2 games handily. “We never really let them get close to us. We did really well tonight because of the hard work we’re putting in,” Brickner added.
It was the 13th time this season that Azusa Pacific has swept an opponent.
Next up for the Cougars will be Vanguard whom they host on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. at the Felix Event Center.