Eagles lose volleyball thriller

APU beat Biola in five sets to strike first in the resurgent rivalry.

Austin Green and Carter Baumgartner

The matchup between Biola and Azusa Pacific made its long-awaited return Friday night when the Eagles’ volleyball squad visited their APU counterparts for the first NCAA Division II head-to-head meeting of the two schools. The teams entered the match with a combined 16-3 record and were undefeated in PacWest conference play.

A raucous and resurfaced rivalry

If the atmosphere on APU’s campus signaled anything, the rivalry has picked up right where it left off. A raucous home crowd led by Azusa’s student section clashed with a vocal Biola contingent all match long in the presence of both schools’ athletic directors and nearly 1,000 spectators. The game lived up to the hype as well, with the host Cougars rallying to take the match in the maximum five sets.

The game immediately got the crowd involved with a back and forth first set. Neither team managed to pull very far ahead of the opponent, but the Eagles never let Azusa retake the lead after Biola went ahead 5-4 early in the set. The Cougars rallied late, narrowing Biola’s lead to 22-20, but after a late timeout from head coach Aaron Seltzer the Eagles refocused to hold off the Cougars and win 25-23.

APU came right back in the second set, winning the first three points to awaken the home crowd and regain momentum. They did not need much else to defend their home court for a wire-to-wire victory. The Cougars started and finished the set strong, winning five of the final six points to even the match at 1-1. Biola threatened at points, but Azusa’s defense handled everything the Eagles threw at them, churning out highlight reel digs and getting lucky on borderline calls.

The all important third set saw the teams trade blows and battle for the advantage in the match. APU took a 13-8 lead and looked ready to run away with the entire match. The Eagles responded with a 10-1 run to silence the Azusa crowd. The Cougars pulled within one point at 19-18, but Biola pulled away for the 25-21 set win, putting them one set away from victory.

The teams traded blows in the fourth set until the Eagles went on a 7-1 to run the score to 8-5. However, four straight APU kills turned the tide and the Cougars dominated from there, finishing the set 20-8 to send the match to a deciding fifth set.

To the wire

The Cougars entered the final set with momentum and the home fans knew it, their volume increasing as the set went on. The Cougars gave them plenty to cheer about as they never fell behind the Eagles after falling early 2-1. Biola managed to keep pace with APU but could not score after tying the set 8-8. From then on the match was all Azusa, who scored seven unanswered points—the final six on attack errors from the Eagles—to win the deciding set 15-8 and draw first blood in the Cornerstone Cup.

Whether due to the intensity of the crowd, the fatigue of another grueling five-set match or a combination of both, the Eagles came off the rails late with 14 attack errors in the final two sets to bring their entire total of the match to a whopping 31, compared to only 19 from APU. Redshirt freshman outside hitter Savannah Hilde and sophomore outside hitter Sabrina Winslow each led the team with 12 and 14 kills, respectively, but also recorded a team-high of eight attack errors each. Hilde also recorded two of the Eagles’ three receiving errors on APU aces, all of which came in the fourth and fifth sets.

The Eagles fall to 7-3 (1-1 in PacWest). The team continues conference play as they host Point Loma in their DII home opener in Chase Gymnasium on Sept. 23.

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