O'Brien being this good, this fast was difficult to predict, however, as the freshman set a CBU single-match block record in leading the Lancers to a huge win over Azusa Pacific on the road.
More than just an impressive individual performance, the win gives the Lancers their first conference victory of the season and hands the familiar foe Cougars a loss in their first ever PacWest contest. CBU took the match 3-1 (24-26, 25-14, 25-23, 25-12).
It was the 61st meeting between the two teams who were former conference mates in the Golden State Athletic Conference. The Lancers made the move to NCAA Division II prior to last season, joining the PacWest in the process and APU followed suit making the same move this season. CBU leads the all-time series 36-25.
"I knew we could play like this and put together a complete match against a quality opponent and it was great to see the girls do it," said. "Malika's presence out there tonight was amazing. She really sparked us at the net and gave us such an emotional boost and momentum when we needed it, but more than anything this was a great team win."
The Lancers dropped a tightly contested opening set, but showed tremendous poise coming back in the second to dominate the home-team cougars for a 25-14 win.
It was the third game that would ultimately decide the match.
Riding the energy of a raucous home crowd of over 600, the Cougars took a three point lead midway through the third set and would ride it late into the game as the teams traded sideouts.
Trailing 22-19, Ingrid Carmona and O'Brien ripped back to back kills and Carmona followed with an ace, dissolving what looked like a solid APU lead in a matter of minutes. O'Brien followed with a kill down the center of the court and just like that the Lancers led 23-22.
After a kill by APU's Jackie Landers, O'Brien and Jordyn Siko combined to stuff Landers' next attempt, giving the visitors set point. Kim McCalmont would seal the win hitting a ball off the block that just found the floor in front of a diving Cougar.
The loss broke the spirit of the Lancers' opponents and CBU cruised to a 13-point win in the final game.
"They got off to a great start in the third and had us on the ropes," said Higa. "We continually talk about being steady out there and executing our game plan and that's exactly what they did. The girls trusted our plan, trusted each other, weathered the storm and just executed at the end."
O'Brien finished with 15 blocks in the match, crushing the previous record of 11 originally set back in 2001. O'Brien had tied that record just two matches ago. She also finished with 10 kills, hitting .476 in the match.
Carmona led the Lancers with 17 kills and McCalmont added 16. Megan Glennie led all players with 19 digs and Siko put up 40 assists.
The Lancers hit .271 in the match, reaching their stride in the fourth with a .433 attacking clip. APU hit .083 on the night. CBU also out-blocked the Cougars 17-7.
"This win means a lot for us," said Higa. "We know what it means to beat APU and it was important for us to go there and get a victory against a good team like that. There are some big things to take away from this, but we are a work in progress and there's still more to be done."
The Lancers go back to non-conference play next time out, hosting Cal State San Marcos in their season home opener.