The Cougars have a lot to learn after losing on their home court for the first time this season.
The Cougars fought hard in a four-set match against Chaminade University on Saturday in the Felix Event Center. Azusa Pacific University jumped out to a great start and won the first set (25-22). They then battled hard in the second and third sets but conceded (26-28, 26-28). Despite their efforts, the Silverswords won the fourth set 21-24.
“It was a battle. We had our moments to win a few out there, but they just executed a little bit better down the stretch,” commented Coach Keife.
APU came into the match with two wins against Hawai’i Hilo University and Hawai’i Pacific University. Coach Chris Keife received his 400th win on Wednesday against HPU. The Silverswords, a strong conference team, came in with a nine-game win streak and undefeated in conference play at 7-0.
“Coming into this match we knew it was going to be a challenge. It was going to be something we had to step up to,” said Annaka Jorgenson, #8.
In the first set, APU controlled the pace of the game. They dominated offensively, and got ahead early. Chaminade fought back at the end of the set, getting the score to 23-21. The Cougars held their ground with two final kills from Annaka Jorgenson, #8, to win the first of four.
Chaminade showed their skill in the second set with three quick points to start. Four straight serves from APU’s #2 Aubrea Banfield allowed the Cougars to get up by two (3-5). Points were exchanged from both sides, ending in a fight for set point. With a kill from the Silversword’s Sophie Schilling, Chaminade won the set.
To start the third set, APU served the ball. Four quick kills from the Silverswords gave them the advantage early (4-2). The Cougars gained their momentum back setting the score at 15-14. Nine crucial kills from Jorgenson kept them in the game. A time out called by Coach Keife allowed the Cougars to gain their composure and battle for another set point. Although the Cougars made it difficult for the Silverswords to close out, Chaminade won the set 26-28.
When asked about the Cougars resilience in fighting back, Coach Keife expressed it’s about “staying calm, doing what we do everyday in practice and staying engaged with what’s in front of you and what the opponents are doing.”
Going into the fourth set, the Cougars needed to tie the set score to keep the game going. Chaminade served the ball first, and came out strong. Kills from Delaney Dunham, #22, Palmbush, #11 and Jorgenson kept APU alive. Chaminade counterattacked with five straight points (three kills, one ace, and a block) allowing them to pull ahead 18-9.
“Playing together is huge in those moments. Volleyball is such a team sport, we all rely on each other,” said Kyra Palmbush, #11.
APU couldn’t finish the job, losing the fourth set 25-21. Jorgenson and Palmbush led the team in kills (20, 10). As a team, APU was strong in blocking, beating Chaminade 8-6. They also beat the Silverswords in digs, 74-73.
“At some point it just comes down to executing down the stretch, and that’s where I felt we did a very nice job, they just did it a little bit better,” said Coach Keife.
There’s a lot for the Cougars to learn from this game. They want to make an emphasis on responding to adversity, and preparing for the next game. APU plays their next three games in the Bay area October 3rd-5th.