APU volleyball finishes the final week of their homestand undefeated

With the Cougars’ seven-game homestand coming to an end, the Cougars knew that these next few games would be critical for the rest of the season. With four matches in seven days it would be difficult for the Cougars to get the results they wanted, but it wouldn’t be impossible. Head Coach Chris Keife noted that although the stretch would be physically taxing, it was his team’s mental toughness that would be challenged. “Any time you have four matches in seven days, it is going to be more mentally taxing than anything else.”

After sweeping Point Loma on Saturday, Sept. 15, Azusa Pacific moved on to Hawaii Hilo, who currently sits beneath Azusa Pacific in the PacWest standings. The Cougars were led on offense by senior Natalie Klapp, junior Aliyah Morrison, and freshman Katarina Radisic who each had 10 kills. Senior Kaylen Higa also had 19 assists while freshman Chase Davis had 16. The Cougars took the match in three sets, 25-23, 27-25, 25-12.

On Wednesday, Sept. 19, the Cougars turned their attention to Hawaii Pacific. After a back-and-forth first set that ended 25-17 APU, the Cougars made quick work of the second set taking it 25-9. However, Azusa Pacific hit a bump in the road dropping the third set 25-21. This was the first time Azusa Pacific had dropped a set in PacWest play.

The Cougars fought back in the fourth set, taking it 25-22. This time, the Cougars offense was led by Sara Wagenveld with 13 kills, Radisic with 12, and Julianne Miller with 10. Higa and Davis continued their strong play by respectively dishing out 20 and 29 assists.

Miller noted that the depth of the team contributed to their success this week.

“It’s pretty amazing how deep we are. Our right sides, Aliyah and Amy, they’re both rocking it out there. Our setters are passing dimes, the outsides are killing it. Everyone is doing their part and it’s cool to see everyone clicking and buying in.”

The following day APU hosted the Chaminade Silverswords. Chaminade is third in the PacWest sitting right behind Hawaii Hilo.

The Cougars had to battle their way back from small deficits a few times in the first set, but ended up taking it 25-23. Azusa Pacific took control for a large majority of the second set keeping their lead late and winning 25-19. After a slow start in the third set, the Cougars took the lead and never looked back, finishing off the Silverswords 25-11.

While the Cougars’ defense was stellar in previous games, it really showed against Chaminade. Radisic had 12 digs, while Klapp and sophomore Sophia Newhouse each had 10. Miller finished the night with seven blocks, followed by Wagenveld with four and Morrison with three. Sophomore Amy Hinnant finished the night with 10 kills.

Following the final game, Hinnant expressed how important this week was for the team’s season.

“We knew it was a really big week. We knew that it could put us in a really good spot or keep us tied with everyone else, so we just had to really go after it this week.”

Azusa Pacific will begin a short stretch on the road beginning Friday Sept. 28 at Notre Dame De Namur and will stay in the Bay Area the following day when they face Dominican. The Cougars have a short break before heading out to La Mirada to face rival Biola for the first Cornerstone Cup matchup of the year.

Julianne Miller expressed excitement for the team’s first road trip of the year.

“It has been fun at home. Our court is really nice and it is great to have our fans here, but it is going to be a new experience with some new girls on the team, so it will be nice to get a new vibe and some new scenery.”