After dropping the first set, Azusa Pacific rallies, taking three consecutive sets to seal victory over Point Loma Nazarene University.
It was a quick turnaround for Azusa Pacific University Saturday afternoon. After being defeated the previous night by Fresno Pacific University in a five-set thriller. The Sea Lions of Point Loma headed up the I-5 North to face off against the Cougars for a PacWest Conference showdown.
PLNU was an impressive 8-2 in conference and APU with a 7-4 record. The Felix Event Center in Azusa, CA. was packed with traveling Sea Lions fans and Azusa Pacific fans. The atmosphere set the tone and the Cougars got on top quickly in the first set . It wasn’t for long though as the Sea Lions dominated much of the first set and it appeared the previous night’s mistakes were showing on some of the Cougars play. The Cougars went on a 6-1 run late in the first set to make things a close 20-21. Eventually the Cougars got to set-point at 27-26 but lost the battle, dropping the first set 30-28.
“That was my concern [coming out flat] about how we would come out playing, the first set worried me … but the girls battled back and I was really proud of their mentality,” said Head Coach Chris Kiefe.
The girls battled back indeed, taking a 7-1 run at one point in the second set, the Cougars had a lead of 21-15. They eventually went on to win the set 25-19 and level things at a set a piece. This second set rally was in large part due to the play of #2, Katarina Radisic, when she had 5 straight points in a row. “When Kat [Radisic] is good, we’re exceptional… that shows the kind of quality of a player that she is,” added Kiefe.
Radisic did not feature much in the loss the previous night, in what appeared to be an off night.When asked about the stellar performance tonight, Katarina said, “I really wanted to show up tonight and help the girls win… we came together and did what we do best.”
In the third set, the fans for both sides were treated to some fantastic volleyball. Going Back and forth for the first 10 points, APU was able to get a commanding lead. It was Point Loma coming from behind 17-9 and edging out in front late in the set, 23-21. The Cougars server, Aubrea Banfield, secured the set with three major serves that were eventually put away for three points. Cougars take the third, 25-23.
A big turning point in the match was when Sophomore, Jaela Bernard, featured in the second and third set. Bernard provided a spark plug off the bench and turned the tables for the Cougars.
“ Coming in I was ready to compete for my team, I am always prepared to come on and tonight I just wanted to have fun out there.” expressed Bernard.
To the fourth set they went and the Cougars battled to get their third set victory. Annaka Jorgenson for APU showed why she was the reigning PacWest player of the week in tonight’s performance and helped the Cougars get past a tough Point Loma side. Azusa Pacific was able to halt any comeback chargers from the Sea Lions and eventually took the set, 25-20 to win the match.
“We all played so well and it was a lot of fun out there, we knew we needed to get the win after the tough loss last night,” added Bernard.
This win improved the Cougars record to 8-4 in conference play and gives them hopes to still finish atop the conference with still half of their PacWest games left.
Radisic and Bernard both thanked the fans and credited their support in aiding them to victory. Radisic added a message to her fellow Azusa Pacific students and fans saying, “The Biola game is coming up Tuesday and I would love to invite as many people as possible to come support us in this rivalry game.”
The Cougars and coach Kiefe look forward to playing against their rivals on Tuesday night. When asked about preparation and gameplan looking ahead coach Kiefe said, “Rivalry games are always fun, you can throw out stats and skill because anything can happen and we can’t wait to play.”
The game will take place at the Felix Event Center, on Tuesday Oct. 18th at 6:00 PM. It will be the second Cornerstone Cup Match between Biola and APU this season and the Cougars will be looking to even up the season series, 1-1. Come out and support the girls, it will be a Brick game.