History books were rewritten this year by both basketball teams, the indoor track and field teams, and the women’s swim and dive team as they persevered through a long winter season.
The women’s team started their season off strong with a 15-game winning streak and 18-1 record. After an upset loss to Dominican University in mid-February, the team pushed on, finishing with a 21-3 overall record and 17-2 record in conference before heading into the postseason.
Azusa Pacific University captured the regular season PacWest Championship title early in February. This was APU’s fourth regular season Conference win in program history.
In the PacWest Tournament, the Cougars, who were awarded the No. 1 seed, swept all three games including a comeback win in the semifinals with a 21-point run before capturing an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. Kayla Shaw was named the tournament’s most outstanding player after scoring 57 points across the three games.
After receiving a No. 5 seed in the West Region, the Cougars captured an overtime win over No. 4 Cal State San Marcos, 89-86.
The team’s season came to an end as they fell to No. 1 Cal State East Bay in the West Region Semifinal. They finished with an overall 25-4 record — the fewest losses allowed by a program since 1977.
All-Region First Team and all-PacWest First Team member, Shaw, was ranked #3 in the nation for most 3 pointers made: 93 this season with a 44% shooting percentage.
PacWest Defender of the Year, Laura Pranger led the team with 101 blocks this season and led the conference in blocks tallying 89 blocks across 20 games. Tied for second most blocks in the nation, the 6’4 forward now holds the school record for blocks in a career, season and game across her time at APU.
Although the Men fell short of a championship title twice, they fought their way into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 5 seed in the West Region and won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2018.
The team, which finished with a 15-4 Conference record and 21-10 overall record, pushed through a long season filled with moments of adversity. For example, the Cougars went a month without playing a single game halfway through their season.
After fluctuating between second and the top of PacWest standings each week, the Cougars suffered a 67-72 loss to Concordia Irvine denying them a share of the regular season Conference title.
In the PacWest Tournament, the Men’s team, who received the No. 2 seed, put up wins against No. 7 Hawaii Hilo and No. 3 Biola, before falling to No. 4 Academy of Art, 70-73 in the Final.
After missing the chance for an automatic bid, the Cougars waited with anxious anticipation before receiving a No. 5 seed into the NCAA Tournament to play for a chance in the West Regional bracket.
In their first tournament game, the Cougars defeated friendly foe, Point Loma, 66-64.
The next night, the team’s season ended with an overtime loss to No. 8 Alaska Fairbanks in the regional semifinal game. APU’s Ken West posted a season best 29 points in his final game of the season with 15 of his points coming from three-pointers — a career high.
West finished the season with 438 points, All-PacWest Honors and was selected for the All-PacWest Tournament team. He had season totals of 153 rebounds, 18 blocks, 31 steals and 55 three-pointers.
Justin Hemsley also highlighted the Cougars offense as the next scoring leader on the team with 380 points, 136 rebounds and 38 triples made.
Swim & Dive
The Women’s Swim and Dive team made program history with its highest finish in the both PCSC Conference Championships and in the NCAA Division II National Championships.
After the four day meet, APU placed third, tying their best-ever finish in the PCSC Conference. Montana White was selected Swimmer of the Meet after taking home four conference crowns.
Amanda Anderson also swept the competition, taking three wins and participating in the 200 Free relay team. She had the second most points in the meet behind White, the first time APU has held the top two spots in the Conference meet.
Divers Melia Stout and Amy Crayne were named as the Co-Divers of the Meet where Stout took first in the 1-meter dive competition followed by Crayne on day one. The following day, Crayne took the crown in the 3-meter dive competition where Stout took second.
Also, in his first season as the team’s dive coach, Jim Luci was named the Dive Coach of the Meet.
A few weeks later, APU sent three women to the NCAA Division II Swim and Dive Meet in North Carolina.
True freshman, Montana White, was the only swimmer to qualify for Nationals and earned All-American status placing sixth overall in the 200 free with a time of 1:50.08.
Next, Melia Stout and Amelia Crayne took the stage after qualifying for the 1-meter finals.
Crayne’s fifth place result is the highest finish in Swim & Dive program history and makes it her second straight season as an All-American. Also earning All-American status was Stout who claimed an eighth place finish.
Indoor Track and Field
After winning a national title during the previous Outdoor season, the Women’s Track and Field team came back with a third place finish this Indoor season with 40 points across seven events — the best finish in program history.
Highlighting the national meet in Kansas was Jaylah Walker. She brought 16 points to the table with three individual All-American performances, along with helping Kiarya Holmes, Marian Ledesma and Alayna Vernerto achieve a third place finish in the 4x400m relay.
All-American status was also awarded to Sara Wagenveld who finished fifth in Pole Vault, Mechaela Hyacinth who placed third in the 60m and Chin Agina who placed second in high jump.
This season beheld the most All-American women in APU’s NCAA-era for Indoor Track and Field.
APU also sent three men to compete at Nationals including Jermel Jones II, who achieved All-American status in two jumping events.
On Friday, he became the NCAA Division II Long Jump National Champion with a personal record of 7.79m (25′ 6 ¾”) then placed eighth overall in triple jump the following day.