Azusa Pacific handed top-ranked BYU-Hawaii Seasiders the team’s second conference loss this season in a five-set match (19-25, 25-15, 20-25, 25-18, 15-9) Friday night in the Felix Event Center.
“This is the biggest win I’ve experienced in my three years here,” junior right side hitter Mattie Shelford said. “Every person was high-energy, high-efficiency and executed well. Everything came together. We’ve been waiting for this moment all year, for it all to click, and tonight it clicked.”
After dropping the first set, the Cougars immediately established a lead in the second set. Midway through, the team extended a three-point, 14-11 lead into a 10-point one with a 7-0 rally, eventually closing the second game 25-15.
Despite losing momentum in the third set and allowing the Seasiders to lead the duration of the game to take the win, the Cougars came back out in the fourth set, competing neck-and-neck with 11 tied scores. APU pulled away with a late 8-0 rally to win the set 25-18.
BYU-Hawaii could not take the lead in the match’s final set and Azusa Pacific ended with a 6-0 rally to take the match victory.
“When you can see the morale on the other side drop, you know you’re in it,” Shelford said. “You know you have them right where you want them, and if you can just take it, it’s yours.”
Three Cougars ended the night in double-digit kills, led by Shelford with 19 and a .486 hitting percentage. Senior outside hitter Alicia Utke posted a double-double with 17 kills and 20 digs while junior outside hitter Joy Reinke recorded a season-high 16-kill performance.
“They’re the top team in our conference, so we had that mentality of having nothing to lose,” Reinke said. “We said, ‘Let’s just go all-out and mess some things up in our conference.'”
Coming into the match, the Seasiders had lost just nine sets in conference, five of them to Fresno Pacific. Eleven of their conference wins have been three-set sweeps, competing in a five-set match just four times this season.
“We’ve been in this moment a lot this season, right there on the cusp of winning,” head coach Chris Keife said. “We’ve been in that moment so much that we’re comfortable with it. I don’t know the comfort they had with that.”
This was the first victory for the Cougars in the team’s five-match series history with the Seasiders.
The win places APU at an even 9-9 conference record. The team will host California Baptist Wednesday and Point Loma on Saturday, wrapping up a six-match home stand and the regular-season schedule.