The Cougars team celebrates after winning a set against Biola. (Courtesy of APU Sports Information)

The Cornerstone Cup rivalry with Biola began with a bang with a nail-biting volleyball match that had the Felix Event Center erupting Friday night

A member of the “Zu” student section held up a sign during the electric Biola vs. APU volleyball game that read: “Biola hates puppies.” While it can neither be confirmed nor denied that the statement is true, it is apparent that an accurate sign would be: “APU volleyball hates losing.” Down 2-1, APU was able to storm back to secure a 3-2 thrilling victory.

The Cougars faced a foe they haven’t faced in five years, the Biola Eagles. The last time these two teams met was in Nov., 2012. Biola officially entered NCAA Division II play and the PacWest conference this year. APU and Biola joined forces to create the Cornerstone Cup––a year-long battle between the two athletic programs across many different sports to determine athletic bragging rights.

“Before we left our previous conference and joined the NCAA, this rivalry was always special to me and the players before,” APU head volleyball coach Chris Keife said.

Biola and APU have always had a friendly rivalry, but Keife mentioned that after APU moved to the NCAA, the rivalry was forgotten.

“We lost track of this [rivalry] with us being in the NCAA. So, to have our girls feel that environment and to see the crowd here was great,” Keife said.

APU and Biola traded blows in the first two sets, but Biola would go on to win the third set, to take a commanding 2-1 lead in the match.

“Biola put up a fight, they were playing really well. I think we got the best of Biola, but we retaliated really well and were firing on all cylinders,” junior outside hitter Natalie Klapp said.

Klapp ended the night with a double-double, recording 16 kills and 17 digs, along with one ace and one block. The highlight play of the game came in the second set, when Klapp saved a near-dead play, and libero Bailey Henington miraculously hit the ball back over the net.

The player of the game was junior outside hitter Madison Ogas, who finished with a game high 20 kills and two blocks.

“After we were fighting at the beginning, I just realized I was going to try and be that player to count on, and my teammates can trust to put the ball down,” Ogas said.

The Cougars trailed early in the fourth set 8-5, but were able to rally back, scoring on eight of the next nine points.

“We all made the choice that we were not going to lose this game. We knew that if we played our best we would win and have good results,” sophomore outside hitter Aliyah Morrison said.

Morrison also recorded 11 kills and three blocks on the night for the Cougars.

Entering the fifth and final set, the crowd erupted. Student sections from both Biola and APU were on their feet. The rivalry that had been in a coma for nearly 1,800 days, was suddenly alive and flourishing.

“We were nervous coming into this game. We were like: ‘the rivalry is back,’” Ogas said.

Early in the fifth set, APU and Biola were exchanging points with momentum constantly shifting, until APU finally bared down and logged seven blocks, four of which came at the end to win the set 15-8, and the match 3-2.

“In the preseason, we had pretty bad loss to UC San Diego. So, we were going back to that, and remembering how that felt. Let’s not get lazy on these certain mistakes that we’re making, and let’s bounce back,” Klapp said.

Earlier this season, the Cougars were able to beat the fourth ranked team in the nation, University of Alaska Anchorage earlier this season. The team have also notched an impressive seven shutout victories this season as well. They understand the high expectations for this team, but recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“We just gotta keep focusing on the next team. Take it day by day and moment by moment. I think that’s the biggest difference from this year, to years past,” Keife said.

APU volleyball is now 10-1 on the season, and 3-0 in PacWest conference play. They’ll look to keep the momentum going today (9/23) against Concordia at 3 p.m. in the Felix Event Center.