Altamonte Springs, FL- Tomorrow, the Big Blues continue their NCAA Tournament run against Azusa Pacific after winning a share of the Atlantic Region crown. Azusa Pacific continues their postseason run after winning the West Regional, sharing that title with Hawaii Pacific. This is a battle of ranked opponents as the Big Blues currently sit 37th in the ITA Polls and the Cougars are 14th. The Big Blues and Cougars are scheduled to begin at 12:00 pm EST in Altamonte Springs, FL. Live Stats will be provided.
Quick Facts on Azusa:
Azusa Pacific University is located in Azusa, California, which is 2,375 miles from Bluefield State College. The Cougars play out of the PacWest Conference with the likes of UC San Diego, BYU-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific. Azusa's football team plays in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference as an Associate Member. The private school has Christian roots and is an affiliate member of the NCCAA with enrollment just under 10,000 students.
Azusa Pacific Team Preview:
The Cougars are currently ranked 14th in the latest ITA Poll with a 21-5 overall record. The team rattled off 7 straight wins before losing to UC San Diego to finish the regular season. In that stretch, they were able to beat two top 25 opponents before being downed by the 12th ranked Tritons 5-4. The Cougars then beat Point Loma and BYU-Hawaii in the conference tournament before losing to Hawaii Pacific in the conference finals. After losing 5-4 to UC San Diego, the Cougars were slated to face the Tritons again in the Regionals and this time; Azusa got revenge, winning handily, 5-2. Hawaii Pacific joins Azusa Pacific as the two teams from the West Region to continue in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16.
BSC Keys to Victory:
The Big Blues have a challenge ahead of them in this round. Azusa Pacific is the highest ranked opponent Bluefield State has faced all season. This is the 7th ranked opponent the Big Blues have faced this season with the Big Blues going 3-3 against the other 6 ranked schools. It will be essential for the Big Blues to get 1, if not 2 doubles points. Azusa Pacific is a very gritty group. In the Regionals, the #2 doubles came back from 5-0 to win 8-6 and give the Cougars a 2-1 advantage heading into singles play. The veteran duo of Alexandr Rudenco and Anthony Braem have a chance to give Bluefield State the crucial 2-1 advantage.
During the singles play, Bluefield State will have to use their depth to their advantage. Many teams have real strong #1 & #2 players but lack to the depth to be competitive down the stretch. That is not the case with Bluefield State. Each member of the team has a chance to win from #1 Platon Gud down to #6 Luca Ockernahl. However, crucial victories for Bluefield State will have to come in the 4, 5 & 6 matches. Giorgi Datashvili has been clutch all season, sealing victories over Florida Tech and King University. Ignacio Pulido is finally healthy and should be very influential in his singles and doubles matches. The overall match may come down to freshman Luca Ockernahl who has performed admirably as of late. Ockernahl helped Bluefield State roll in the 5-1 Regional victory over Mercyhurst. Finally, look for Senior Anthony Braem to play his best tennis yet. Braem has been a major factor on the team all year and was on the Bluefield State team that has had the only Round of 16 victory in the past 6 years.
As stated above, live stats will be provided free to everyone and for all rounds: http://stats.statbroadcast.com/broadcast/?id=174465. The video link on the website will not be live but will have video recaps of each round after the day is over. The winner of Azusa Pacific and Bluefield State will face off against the winner of Columbus State and Cameron on the 10th.