Sophomore outside hitter Joy Reinke led the Cougars with 12 kills and a match-high 17 digs for a double-double in the five-set loss to Point Loma in the NCCAA West Region final.
Photo by Steven Mercado

Azusa Pacific’s women’s volleyball team lost the NCCAA Regional Finals in five sets, falling short in a hard-fought tiebreaker against the Point Loma Sea Lions Friday Nov. 22. (25-18, 25-17, 24-26, 19-25, 15-9).

During the regular season, the matchups between the Cougars and Sea Lions resulted in a home sweep for both teams. Going into Friday’s competition, the players knew the chance to compete for the NCCAA National Championships was at stake.

Although the Sea Lions had home-court advantage, the Cougars did not allow them to repeat history with another home-court sweep. After losing the first two sets, the Cougars gained momentum and held off match point in the third set, eventually coming back from a 22-24 deficit to extend the match. In the fourth set, the Cougars went on a 7-1 run, and the Sea Lions did not respond in time to counter the attack, forcing a fifth set tiebreaker. The Sea Lions claimed the 3-2 win and the West Region title when they went on a 7-1 point streak after being tied 8-8.

The Cougars fell just short of their season average .231 attack percentage with .213 for the match. In sets three and four, their attack percentages skyrocketed to .417 and .333.

Sophomore outside hitter Joy Reinke pounded down 12 kills while also leading the team defensively with 17 digs. Sophomore setter Jaden Louie put up 13 digs and 29 assists, and sophomore outside hitter Mattie Shelford registered 14 kills, four block assists and one solo block. Freshman middle blocker Ashley Midland drilled down five kills and six blocks, while junior outside hitter Alicia Utke contributed 13 digs and nine kills. Senior middle blocker Christie Cain added 12 kills and five blocks. Sophomore libero Ashley Swatek ended the night with 10 digs and five assists and sophomore setter Tristan Racich contributed 11 assists.

The loss ended the Cougars’ opportunity to receive an automatic bid to the NCCAA National Championships in Florida. However, there is still a chance they will receive a bid, and they will find out Sunday whether their journey to earning a national championship lives on.