Cougars' Volleyball Wins Big In Conference & Home Opener

This article was originally published in ZU News.

The APU women’s volleyball team has rolled off to their best start since 2011, with a record of 9-1.

They played two non-conference tournaments to start the season, in which they went 7-1 and knocked off NCAA Division II 4th ranked team, Alaska Anchorage.

In this game, maybe their best of the season, APU traded sets back and forth before winning a very close fifth set, 22-25, 25-19, 15-25, 25-23 and 16-14.

Sophomore captain Julianne Miller said teamwork was the key to winning that game.

“We decided to not focus on ourselves. We were playing as a team, point by point,” Miller said. “We decided that it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side if we play our own game. That’s how we were able to rise up to the challenge.”

Miller said that it took a while to get into rhythm, but the team is playing with consistency which has led to their success.

“We’re trying to keep our energy up, no matter what. We’re trying to be consistent whether we’re down or whether we’re up,” Miller said. “If someone’s watching our game, they won’t know whether we’re winning or losing, it’s a matter of consistency.”

Head coach Chris Keife seconded the goal of being consistent.

“We’re returning quite a few kids. The consistency and maturity that we’re showing out on the court is definitely helping with our start,” Keife said. “We’ve really been trying to work on our culture- to be consistent, to be good, and to execute at the highest level.”

Consistency is paying off as seven of the Cougars nine wins have been 3-0 shutouts.

“We’ve set ourselves up to do really well this season. We’ve had some really key wins out there and come out strong,” junior captain Danika Young said. “It’s hard to play after two weeks of double days but we’ve come out strong and worked hard. We’ve got a lot of good talent on our team.”

Young leads the team with 161 assists. She is one of only three juniors on the team. There are no seniors on the team this year.

Young noted the success that the team has had so far, but also said that they have to improve in some areas.

“We want to keep pushing forward, keep moving forward, doing well and getting better with every practice and every game,” Young said. “I don’t really know what that looks like, but we’re going to keep working hard and hopefully good results will come from that.”

One of the areas the team is focusing on most is grit.

“We’re really trying to buckle down. We have girls that have the skills and the mentality that we need. It’s a matter of putting those together,” Miller said. “In the hard times when we’re down in a set and our backs against the wall, it’s learning how to fight and grab on to what we know we can do, which is our basic skills. It’s mind over matter.”

Miller currently leads the team with 90 kills, averaging 2.57 a set. She also has 34 blocks, second on the team to sophomore Sara Wagenveld with 48.

The Cougars home opener was on Sep. 14 where they cruised to a quick win over rival Point Loma. They won 3-0, with set scores of 25-9, 25-14, 25-11. It was the first game they played on their new court.

“It felt awesome to be back at home,” Young said. “It’s really cool to have a just volleyball environment with the new court that we have. We have so many people supporting us and it means a lot to be back at home.”

There were a total of 619 people in attendance. Young emphasized the importance of the crowd in helping the team win.

“It was so cool to see everybody go out and play their absolute best,” Young said. “Our defense was amazing. We served really well which allowed for our defense to be good. It was really awesome to beat our rivals.”

Miller also noted the significance of the win against Point Loma.

“Tonight was a huge win and a huge mentality boost. We know and we have confidence in what we are able to do,” Miller said.

In their next match on Sept. 16, the Cougars beat Fresno Pacific 3-0 with set scores of 25-14, 25-7 and 25-17. They had their second best game of the season in terms of hitting percentage.

Their next game of the season is Friday, Sept. 22 at 6:00 p.m. at home against Biola. It will be the first match of the new Cornerstone Cup.

“We’re absolutely looking forward to playing our other rival, Biola, now that they’re back,” Miller said.