The undefeated Lancers were too much for the Cougars today, but APU is able to look at the positive and learn as they go forward
The Cougars put up a battle, but in the end, came up short to the No. 3 nationally-ranked California Baptist Lancers, losing their first game at home this season by a score of 3-1.
The Lancers who remain undefeated this season (24-0 overall; 16-0 in PacWest) are the top team within the PacWest conference while the Cougars are right behind them at second with an 18-5 overall record (11-4 in PacWest). With only five games left in the regular season, both teams are set to make postseason play.
The Cougars came out strong against the Lancers, taking the first set of the match, 25-20. Sophomore libero Bailey Henington liked the way her team played today, and expressed that they love this type of competition.
“I think we played great. We came out with some fire in that first set and worked really hard for it,” Henington said. “We want to play Cal Baptist every day because they are so good, and we respect them for that. We’re not disappointed about this loss; we worked hard and played ball.”
Henington led the team with 18 digs on the night, along with earning six assists as well.
In the second and third sets however, the Lancers would fight back aggressively to take a 2-1 lead over APU. Cal Baptist was able to flip the score in the second set, winning it 25-20. CBU would take that momentum into the third, dominantly winning it 25-13. Players such as Henington credit CBU’s experience and maturity in their success.
“They have five seniors and we have none. It’s maturity—they can get out of situations and we just have to be able to sustain those points and not have them get on a run,” Henington said.
Junior setter Kaylen Higa stated that the team just needs to learn how to be more consistent and not give up on any plays.
“We just need to be more consistent and learn not to take one or two plays off. They’re going to get their points and kills, but we’re going to get those as well. We just need to take it and respond quicker to it,” Higa said. “All in all, we are young and we are growing, and this is a great atmosphere to be around.”
Higa would record a double-double against CBU, leading the team with 23 assists and adding 11 digs in the process.
The Cougars would not give up easily, however, as they would challenge CBU in an intense fourth set that constantly went back-and-fourth between the two teams. APU held a 16-15 lead in the fourth set, but Cal Baptist would score two straight to take a 17-16 lead, and never allowed APU to get back in front to force a fifth set. Both teams were evenly matched for the rest of the match, but after a few controversial calls from the referees and solid defensive play from the Lancers, CBU would take the final set 26-24 to win the match.
“We fought well, and in sets one and four, we did a great job. We felt comfortable, passed and controlled the ball well, but in sets two and three, they put a lot more pressure on us and we struggled with that constant pressure,” head coach Chris Keife said. “I like the way we responded after being down 2-1, and how we came back and gave it our best shot.”
Nonetheless, the Cougars came out of this match positive and were proud to play as tough as they did against Cal Baptist. To put into perspective how dominate Cal Baptist has been this year, out of 79 total sets played, they have only lost seven of those sets, one of which came from APU today.
“We had nothing to lose. We just wanted to come out and give them a good fight and a taste of what APU volleyball is all about,” Higa said. “We didn’t want to back down from them and we definitely learned from last time that they’re not going to back down either. We have the same potential that they have.”
Junior outside hitters Natalie Klapp and Madison Ogas had solid performances on the night. Klapp recorded her fifth double-double of the season, leading the team with 15 kills on the night along with 13 digs, while Ogas tallied 14 kills and two blocks. Junior setter Danika Young also had a good night with 16 assists and 10 digs.
With only five games left in the regular season, the Cougars plan to take care of business with playoffs on the horizon.
“For us to continue to be in the playoff picture, we have to take care of business, and that’s the mentality that we have to have for these next five matches. We have to get wins when they matter most,” Keife said.
APU will play their next game at home against Hawai’i Pacific on Monday, Nov. 6 and will play their final home game of the season on Thursday, Nov. 9 against Hawai’i Hilo.