APU Volleyball stays perfect in conference play with solid win over rival Biola

The Azusa Pacific women’s volleyball squad defeated Biola 3-1, remaining undefeated against PacWest opponents, to improve to an 11-2 overall record. Saturday’s match was the first of the third annual Cornerstone Cup, the annual athletic program rivalry series between the longtime foes. 

APU is off to a good start in defense of the Cornerstone Cup, which they won in a 120-20 landslide last year. The Cougars lead the series all-time at 2-0, winning the cup both years since its inception in 2017. Their victory on Saturday gives them an early 5-0 lead this year. 

Biola entered the match with an overall record of 7-6. Their 4-1 record against PacWest opponents placed them fourth in the PacWest standings. APU, however, came into the game ranked 2nd overall with their perfect PacWest record, two wins behind top ranked Chaminade. A six-game winning streak gave the Cougars great confidence against the rival Eagles. 

APU took an early lead in the first set behind strong attacks from senior middle blocker Julianne Miller. Great center play was a theme that APU established early on in the game. Senior libero Bailey Hennington made several impressive hustle plays which kept rallies alive. 

“If you’re hustling and you’re giving it your all, that’s what creates that energy. Making a great play and putting out that effort is what gets your team pumped up,” Hennington said. 

APU maintained a four point advantage most of the set until a few misplayed Biola attacks cut their lead to two. Freshman outside hitter Annaka Jorgenson scored three clutch points down the stretch to lift the Cougars over Biola 25-22 in the first set. 

Biola responded in the second set, taking an early 10-6 lead. The Eagles’ consistent blocking caused trouble for the Cougars and became a big factor in the match. They finished the game with a season-high 17 blocks. A long back and forth rally gave APU momentum to keep the set close, and a series of hitting errors brought the Cougars within 2, but they couldn’t find a way to hit around Biola’s block, and the Eagles took set two 25-20. 

The third set started off close, before APU capitalized on a series of Biola mistakes, going on a six point run and taking an 18-10 lead in the middle of the set. Senior middle blocker Sara Wagenveld contributed a pair of kills, with five total in the set, and a block late in the set to help the Cougars keep their lead and win the third set 25-18. 

The Cougars took their momentum from the third set into the fourth and hung tough as the set was tied for the first 12 points. Accurate passing gave the Cougars a huge offensive advantage; they were able to hit around Biola’s blocks more effectively than they had in earlier sets. A pack of Cougars contributed to 17 fourth set kills, and APU dominated the final set 25-17 to win the match 3-1.

Saturday’s matchup was a kill party. Five Cougars tallied double-digit kills, with Jorgenson, Miller and Wagenveld leading the team with 15, 14 and 13 kills respectively. Hennington led the Cougars’ defensive effort with 22 digs on the night. Though APU had more errors than Biola (26-16), APU kept more balls in play, leading to more offensive attempts (146-127). 

Miller relishes every time she gets to play her school’s rival. 

“Biola is a solid team,” Miller said. “When you have a lot of respect for a team, your practices are just a little bit different and there’s a lot more energy.” 

Head coach Chris Keife was proud of his team’s performance in the first Cornerstone Cup showdown His main emphasis for his players is continual growth.

 “We want to make sure we’re trying to improve on a daily basis and not getting stagnant no matter what team we’re playing,” Keife said.

APU will be on the road for their next three contests. The Cougars’ next match is against Dominican on Friday at 7 p.m.