Cougars post best total score of the season on Senior Night


Following their first loss of the season at Baylor University, the second-ranked Cougars looked to bounce back in their final regular season meet against Converse College. Azusa Pacific took the lead early and never looked back, taking the win on Senior night, 284.640-274.440.

“They were in the zone. It is a little scary playing a team where you know your start value is so different,” head coach Colleen Kausrud said. “For them to come out and be as focused as they were, they did really well.”

Azusa Pacific was firing on all cylinders early, opening the match with a 10.2-point margin and collecting 38.65 out of the possible 40 points during the compulsory heats. This featured a high score of 9.95 in the pyramid heat for the Cougars. Converse came closest to winning a heat during the toss heat, tying Azusa Pacific at 9.85.

“We started off super strong, especially in compulsory, we had two freshmen do it for the first time. So to start off so strong, it just helped throughout the whole meet,” senior Rachel Shier said.

The Cougars kept their momentum going in the acrobatics heats, posting scores of 9.95, 9.90 and 9.70. Azusa Pacific took the second event by a score of 29.55-29.05.

The pyramid events brought some of the best scores of the night for Azusa Pacific. The Cougars scored 9.95 in heat one, 9.90 in heat two and a perfect 10.00 in the final heat to bring a season-high score of 29.85 for the event.

At halftime, the Cougars led 98.050-96.050 over the Valkyries.

Azusa Pacific continued their success in the second half, beginning with scores of 9.80, 9.70 and 9.75 in the toss events, increasing their lead over Converse by two full points.

Senior Heather Hovander and sophomore Courtney Moser scored a season-high 9.75 in the duo tumbling pass to begin the tumbling event, and each pass recorded a score of 9.300 or higher.  Two more seniors reached or tied season-highs in the tumbling events. Senior Ashleigh Pitts scored 9.925 on the aerial pass and senior Hannah Steffen scored 9.900 on the open pass.

“I actually surprised myself. Even in practice, I feel like I don’t even do them that well, so that was awesome. I feel really good about that,” Pitts said regarding her season-high solo pass. “It motivates me to go higher. I want to score higher and contribute as much as I can for the team.”

The Cougars finished the night with a 99.340 score on their team event, bringing an energetic Felix Event Center crowd to their feet.

Following the team event, eight seniors were honored for their contributions over the past four years: Jamie Nolta, Hannah Steffen, Rachel Shier, Heather Hovander, Ashleigh Pitts, Marykate Cacchione, Jolynn Stahl and Noelle Miranda.

“They didn’t expect to be looked up to, they earned it. Everybody enjoys them, they respect everything that they do, all of the underclassmen watch them, and that is awesome because they are training people the right way. I think that is why we are this successful,” Kausrud said.

Azusa Pacific finishes the regular season with a program-best record of 5-1 and looks to head into the NCATA National Championships as the second seed. The National Championships will be held in Erie, Pennsylvania on April 26-29 at Gannon University.

“We can really see that each meet we continue to get better and better, which is awesome. We’re not plateauing. It’s really cool to think about because we are going to peak at nationals, and that’s what you want, and we are actually doing it, so it is really exciting,” Pitts said.