The APU women’s volleyball team has rarely faced adversity this year. After starting the season 14-1 and 7-0 in PacWest conference play, the Cougars fell to Biola last Saturday and suffered their first conference loss. However, Thursday night proved to be a much needed boost of confidence with a 3-1 win over Chaminade in the Felix Event Center, and improving to an overall record of 15-2.
“I thought it was a good redemption from our last game against Biola,” sophomore libero Bailey Henington said. “I think we came out stronger, harder and ready to compete tonight.”
The Cougars did come out strong, winning the first set 25-16. Junior outside hitter Natalie Klapp scored the final kill in the first set to seal the deal.
However, Chaminade wasn’t going to go down without mounting a fight. The Silver Swords jumped out to a commanding 20-12 lead in the second set, and would go on to win the set, 25-15.
“Chaminade is a good team. We played them two weeks ago in Hawaii, and they’re a young team, kind of like we are,” head coach Chris Keife said. “They do a lot of nice things and definitely make you earn your points out there.”
Nonetheless, after the second set the Cougars would take control of the game, winning the third set 25-22, and the fourth set 25-18. Key players for APU were junior outside hitters Madison Ogas and Klapp. Ogas would record a double-double, including a team high 14 kills, while Klapp scored 9 kills and 17 digs.
“They [Ogas and Klapp] had an all-around good game. They passed well, defended well, and hit well,” Keife said. “They did a lot of good ball-control stuff for us.”
Henington concurred with Keife, and saw positive steps forward in practice this week.
“Our hitters have been working really hard in practice. They’ve been practicing some uncomfortable shots and tooling those blocks,” Henington said.
Henington led the team defensively with 22 digs and six assists.
Sophomore middle blockers Sara Wagenveld and Julianne Miller also had solid performances. Wagenveld recorded 10 kills, four blocks and one ace, while Miller had nine kills and six blocks.
“We really wanted to prove to everybody who we were, and get back to that consistent, fighting team that we are,” Ogas said.
Although the Cougars’ hitters were spectacular in their performance, Chaminade committed a game high 22 errors on the attack that helped APU run away with the game in the third and fourth set.
APU outscored Chaminade in kills, assists, digs and blocks. Yet, Keife stills sees a lot of room for improvement in his team’s play.
“We’ve got to start serving well, and just put ball on the floor,” Keife said.
This Saturday, the Cougars will undoubtedly face their toughest test yet when they travel to Riverside for a showdown with the country’s sixth-ranked team and PacWest rival, California Baptist. The Lancers are currently 17-0, and have only lost a total of two sets all season.
Still, the Cougars are eager for the challenge and hope to make a statement.
“We’re ready, we’re ready to compete,” Henington said. “I think any team wants to go out there and play their best.”
The matchup with Cal Baptist marks the end of an era between the two schools as Cal Baptist will be moving to NCAA Division I play next year, and join the Western Athletic Conference. This will be the first of the final two PacWest conference games that APU and Cal Baptist women’s volleyball will ever play.
“We just have to remind ourselves how good we really are. When we are on the court, we just have to play to our abilities and we can do it,” Ogas said.
The Cougars, who are currently ranked 25th nationally, will look to make a statement in an upset over the sixth-ranked and undefeated Lancers at 3 p.m. Saturday at Cal Baptist.