Despite a strong start, APU volleyball fell short of victory against their rival team on home courts,
The Cougars faced a tough loss against Biola University on Tuesday in the Felix Event Center. Azusa Pacific University played with consistent aggressiveness to secure the first and second set going 25-20 and 25-19. However, Biola made a comeback in an intense third and fourth set (25-20, 25-21), and their momentum grew to be unbeatable, winning the match with a 15-11 finish in the fifth set.
Coach Keife noted that it’s not unusual for Biola to have a slow start but then excel. He said, “That’s Biola. Biola’s going to play really well for you at times and then they’re going to struggle. Once they figure it out and they get a good rhythm then they’re hard to stop.”
Though Biola is a strong team, hopes were high for the Cougars. Coming off an exciting victory against Point Loma, the Cougars were ready for revenge against Biola after falling short to them in September. It was set to be a tight matchup between the two rivals with APU’s record being 12-9 and Biola’s 12-8.
The Cougar’s took the first set led by stellar performances from redshirt freshman setter Kendyl Macaskill, and senior outside hitter Annaka Jorgenson. The Cougars and the Eagles battled it out early on in the set, going back and forth. APU was able to pull away after a kill from Jorgenson brought the score to 8-6. From there the Cougars continued to play collectedly. With two timeouts Biola tried to close the Cougar’s lead, but they were unable to do so.
The second set told a similar story. It was a close set until the girls made a 5-point run, which brought the score to 19-12, and achieved two more 6-point runs, closing out the set. Once again, Jorgenson helped the team with an ace and two consecutive blocks.
APU and Biola were neck and neck up until the very end of the third set. Senior outside hitter Katarina Radisic, started the set off well with two back to back kills.The score went back and forth until Biola made a 5-point run securing the set 25-20.
By the fourth set, Biola brought a heightened intensity. These raised stakes were challenging to play against. Though it was also a close one, the set was closed out by a 4-point run by Biola.
Coach Keife talked about how the girls have been working on playing with greater consistency in high pressure moments. He said, “It happens a lot in matches [higher pressure]. That’s the best opportunity to keep practicing. It’s hard to replicate that in practice. So we try to take teachable moments out there whether it’s in a match or in practice and do our best to remind them this is how we close it out.”
The Cougars held their own in the fifth set with a few great moments including several kills from Radisic. However, it was not enough and Biola beat APU for the second time this season finishing the game 3-2.
Coach Keife reflected on the game which mirrored that of their previous loss to Biola. He said, “We were up 2-0. We were up 2-0 at their place. I think just the focus and the maturity of our team wasn’t there and so we just let the lead slip.”
Despite the disappointing defeat, the home crowd remained impassioned throughout the entirety of the game as they cheered on the Cougars. With pizza boxes in the stands and a nail-biter of a rivalry match up, it was an exciting two hours.
“Rivalry is always fun. I mean it’s always fun playing Biola. They’re always up for our match and rivalry games are the best,” said Coach Keife.
Taking away from tonight’s game, the girls will continue to work on consistency as they look to their next away matches against Fresno Pacific on Friday and the following three games in Hawaii.