SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- It might not have been the most aesthetically pleasing performance by Azusa Pacific this season but in the end it was equally as effective.
The NAIA’s No. 14-ranked Cougars defeated The Master’s, 3-0 (30-20, 30-23, 30-27), to bolster their record to 20-6, the second consecutive year under head coach Chris Keife they have reached that plateau.
The Cougars (20-6, 11-5) controlled game 1 from the opening serve and cruised to a 30-20 win. However, after the good start, Azusa Pacific sputtered in game 2 and the Mustangs took full advantage getting within 22-21 and forcing the Cougars to call a timeout. They stormed out of the break with an 8-2 run to finish off the game.
The third game was a struggle as the Cougars seemed to lose their rhythm. “We started the match off alright and then allowed them to hang with us in the second game,” said Jenny Brickner, who had a match-high 17 kills and 4 blocks. “When we got down in the third game we tried to do too much and it led to mistakes.”
The Mustangs quickly ran up a 9-3 lead on the Cougars and seemed to be gaining momentum. Azusa Pacific added to The Master’s success with a series of attack and service errors. “When that happens we try to pull together and forget about the last point,” said setter Allison Kincheloe. “We focus on playing games to 5 in our head and not to worry about the 30.”
The strategy paid off as the Cougars steadily climbed back into the game before catching the Mustangs at 23-23. The 2 teams went back and forth before Colleen Walker ended the match on a kill for the win.
“We need to work on maintaining our focus for the entire match,” said head coach Chris Keife. “We don’t want to let the other team dictate to us.”
The Cougars attack was effective overall as they outhit the Mustangs .311 to .104. Chelsea Morgan added 12 kills while Jessica DeJager had 11 kills and 8 digs. Kincheloe recorded 47 assists and 6 digs.
Brickner’s 4 blocks were of the assist variety and her next 1 will break the school mark which currently sits at 388. It is just 1 of the plot lines that the team has this next week as it eyes the home stretch of the regular season.
Azusa Pacific will be back in action on Tuesday night when it hosts Hope International in a match slated to begin at 7 p.m.