A hard-fought battle between rivals Azusa Pacific University and Biola University ends in a 1-3 loss for the Cougars.
There was an electric energy in the Felix Event Center on Saturday afternoon. The rival game between the Cougars and the Eagles brought out many fans to support both teams. Azusa Pacific University battled hard to win each set but fell short, losing 1-3.
The Eagles were 6-0 in conference game play and 11-4 overall going into the match. After a week in Hawaii, APU had a conference record of 4-2 and 7-6 overall. They won two of the three games in the Aloha state, losing to No. 12 Chaminade University. Coming into this match, the Cougars were looking to secure another conference win.
“Overall it was a good match, [we] just didn’t get the points we needed to win,” said coach Chris Keife.
Biola set the tone early, starting the match with four kills. The Cougars found their rhythm and answered back with another four kills. Two long rallies allowed APU to fight back 12-13, ending with kills from freshman Sarah Wilson and redshirt sophomore Kendyl Macaskill. With support from the crowd, the Cougars were on fire. APU took the lead 14-13 from an ace, forcing the Eagles to take a timeout. After regrouping, Biola pulled away with several kills and blocks, ending the first set 19-25.
The Cougars started the second set with the first serve. Two immediate kills from Biola put APU down 0-2 to start. That didn’t phase the Cougars. They scored four straight points to answer back. APU continued to dominate with five straight serves from senior Paige Johnstone, putting the team ahead 10-3.
The Eagles continued their efforts to catch back up. They retook the lead 13-14 on a service ace from No.18, Abby Brewster. Points bounced back and forth until APU pulled away, 20-17. Four straight points on Biola errors from serves by sophomore, Hailey Patino gave APU some rhythm. The Cougars secured the win for the second set, 25-22.
Both teams wrestled to control the start of the third set. A kill from senior, Annaka Jorgenson shifted the momentum in favor of APU. Three straight serves from Jorgenson gave APU an early lead, 8-5. Kills from junior, Jaela Bernard, senior, Kyra Palmbush, Jorgenson and Macaskill pulled the Cougars away even more, putting the score 13-10. The Eagles pursued, sticking with APU in each attack. Both teams battled to secure the win for the second set. With the score at 23-24, the set ended with a shank by the Cougars, giving Biola a 2-1 set advantage.
The fourth set began with an early APU lead. Several kills by Jorgenson put the Cougars up 8-4. An exhilarating 48-touch rally put the crowd on the edge of their seats, ending in a Biola point, 8-5. More points were exchanged from both sides which tied the score 13-13. A second, long 53-touch rally was successful for the Cougars, ending with a kill from Macaskill and giving APU the lead once again.
Those long rallies take a toll on everyone on the court. Jorgenson explained how it’s important to lean on each other when they happen.
“It’s hard for everyone—It’s hard for you, it’s hard for the other team. Everyone’s out of breath, everyone’s working hard…so just remembering that that’s the reality you don’t have to put all the pressure on you. You can lean on your teammates in those moments,” said Jorgenson.
Three consecutive kills from APU maintained their advantage and forced Biola to take a time-out. The Eagles answered back with three kills in a row, which gave them the lead 18-19. Biola continued their attack, ending the last set with five consecutive points. The Eagles won the final set 20-25, securing a victory over APU 1-3.
Despite losing the game to Biola, Coach Keife wasn’t disappointed.
“We had some great moments, [we] just [have] to sustain a little bit longer. Overall I thought we competed well and it was a fun environment to be in,” said Keife.
Johnstone expressed how team chemistry plays a vital role when each set is a battle for the win.
“It’s nice to have the calm composure that we all have and I think us leaning on each other has gotten us to this point,” said Johnstone. “Working together as a team has been so important—so big—and everyone has contributed in the best way possible.”
Looking forward, APU volleyball wants to learn from this game and apply it to the next. The Cougars travel to San Diego to take on the Sea Lions of Point Loma Nazarene University on Oct. 5. PLNU is 8-4 overall and 5-0 in conference play.
“If we play as well as we did tonight, it’s going to be a great season,” said Keife.