The Cougars lost a close one in their home opener against a fellow top-five opponent. 

Azusa Pacific’s acrobatics and tumbling team opened up their season with a loss against the University of Oregon on Friday night with a final score of 272.510-269.275. 

The Ducks took the floor first and started strong in the compulsory event scoring 9.60 in the acro heat while the Cougars finished with a 9.25. APU was able to tie Oregon in the toss heat with a score of 9.90 but lost both the pyramid and tumbling heat by a score of .10 in each event. After the compulsory event, the Ducks led the Cougars, 38.10 to 37.55.

In the acro event, the Cougars dominated winning both the six-element and seven-element heat to take the event 28.35 to 27.85. With their performance in the acro event, APU cut the Ducks’ lead to just half a point. 

Before closing the first half, the Ducks won both the inversion and synchronized heats in the pyramid event. The Cougars were able to force a tie in the open heat with a score of 9.85. Oregon’s performance in the first two heats allowed them to take the event with a score of 29.30, while APU finished with 28.90. 

At halftime, the Ducks led the Cougars 95.25 to 94.80. 

In the toss event, both teams came out of the half with impressive performances. Once again, the Ducks took the first two heats while the Cougars dominated the third. The Cougars came away with a victory in the event by a score of 28.45 to 28.30.

The Ducks were able to come away with a narrow win in the tumbling event winning four of the six heats. With one event remaining, the APU trailed, 179.075 to 179.600. Despite an impressive display in the final team event, APU was unable to complete the comeback after losing the event, 92.910 to 90.200. 

Even in defeat, head coach Kara Willard noted how proud she was of her team’s performance. 

“I felt like they were strong. They faced a lot of adversity the last few weeks, so for them to come out and be able to hold our start values and have a strong first meet was important. For us this is our starting point,” Willard said. 

Willard was particularly proud of her team looked in the toss and tumbling events, where they scored highly.

“I felt like the toss event I was really proud of. We had a new top in there that hadn’t competed in those events before, Maria Hurst. So that was cool to see. I felt like we looked really strong in that, and also in our tumbling heat,” Willard said. 

The Cougars, coming off an impressive 6-2 record last season, finished third in the preseason coaches poll, and are returning 22 athletes from last year’s squad. The Ducks meanwhile are looking to rebound from a 2-5 season and finished fifth in the coaches poll. 

“This team has a lot of returners, we have a lot of depth this year and versatility. So it’s just getting the experience under their belts and we should be right on top again like we were last year,” Willard said.

In their last meeting, the Ducks narrowly defeated the Cougars in Eugene by a score of 280.58 to 279.78. However, the APU defeated Oregon on their last trip to Azusa in 2021 by 1.14 points. 

The Cougars will take on the Gannon University Golden Knights at home on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. in the Felix Event Center before traveling to East Texas Baptist on March 9.