LCSC falls to Azusa Pacific in first match of pool play
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – After getting out to a great start, the Lewis-Clark State College women’s volleyball team couldn’t keep it going and fell to fifth-ranked Azusa Pacific University 23-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-17 in the opening round of pool play at the 30th annual NAIA Volleyball National Tournament on Tuesday.
The Warriors, who rallied for five-set victories in their last three postseason matches, couldn’t muster up the same comeback against the Cougars to fall against the top seed in their four-team pool. During the regular season, LCSC defeated Azusa Pacific in five sets at a tournament in California.
"It's pretty disappointing," LCSC coach Jen Greeny said. "I don't think we played very well at times. We just didn't start well and fell behind early in most of the games."
APU’s Jill Baker, a 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter, made sure to keep the Warriors down as she collected a match-high 19 kills. She also had 10 digs and a service ace. Teammates Whittany Radcliffe and Marguerite Hanna also provided the offensive support with 10 kills each. The three proved too be too much because LCSC had only five more kills as a team (44) than APU’s big three (39).
Senior Anile Clemente paced the Warriors with 17 kills and a .265 hitting percentage. Senior middle blocker Dani Barrett and sophomore outside hitter Lauryn Herrick added seven kills apiece, while junior middle blocker Jenika Bird had six kills. Barrett also was credited with three blocks, while Bird had 2.5. As a team, LCSC had 11 blocks while APU had four.
Junior Katie Hinrichs had 14 digs, while junior Kim Fong and Clemente added nine each. Fong also had 23 assists, while senior Lisa Davis had 12, but passing was a problem for the Warriors, Greeny said.
"We didn't pass very well and we didn't block well at times," Greeny said. "You can't do that against a very good ballclub and expect to win."
APU had an 8-2 advantage in service aces.
The loss drops the Warriors to 0-1 in their four-team pool. LCSC continue action on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. against the College of Idaho in what is basically a must-win match. Only the top two teams from each of the six pools advance to the single-elimination bracket portion of the tournament, which begins on Friday. College of Idaho met Doane in a later match on Tuesday night in LCSC’s pool. LCSC will face Doane on Thursday at 6 p.m. to finish pool play.
The Warriors, ranked No. 21 in the NAIA and seeded No. 20 in the tournament, are 24-8 overall, while APU is 25-8.
In Tuesday’s match, the Warriors fell behind early and trailed by as much as three on six occasions, the last at 17-14. The Warriors, behind Clemente and junior Demi Dlouhy, rallied to score 10 of the next 13 points for a 24-20 lead. Although APU scored the next three points, the Warriors were able to close out the set with a kill by Clemente. Both Clemente and Dlouhy finished with four kills in the first game, while Baker had seven for the Cougars.
In the second set, the Warriors fell behind early and never were able to come back. The Cougars jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead as Baker had two kills while Hanna had a kill and a service ace. The Cougars stretched the lead to 11-4 with a 4-0 run as Sophie Burns added two ace serves. LCSC managed to cut the margin to three at 18-15, but APU ran off the final seven points to win going away. Baker had two kills and finished the set with a service ace during the run.
"They made some adjustments, especially with their blocking, and we didn't counteract to what they were doing," Greeny said about the second set.
The Warriors didn’t let the Cougars keep their momentum from the second game. The third game featured 13 ties overall, including four early before the Cougars ran off four straight points for a 7-4 advantage. The Warriors, led by a pair of kills from Clemente, fought back to tie the contest at 10 and an ace by Clemente gave the Warriors their first lead at 13-12. The contest was back-and-forth for with the final tie at 19. At that point, APU took control as Baker and Hanna had two kills apiece to help the Cougars close out the match with a 6-2 run and claim the 25-21 win.
The Cougars continued to run with the momentum as they broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth set with eight straight points for a 9-1 lead. Radcliffe paced the APU attack with three kills during the run. APU stretched the lead to 19-10, but the Warriors were able to cut the lead to five at 21-16. Hanna, however, answered this time for APU with a pair of kills to help the Cougars claim the four-set win.
"We definitely need to pass better and block better against College of Idaho," Greeny said. "These are really quality teams that are playing out here so we need to be at our best."