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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Home cookin’ key for Arizona volleyball against Washington schools

Arizona+setter+Penina+Snuka+sets+the+ball+up+for+middle+blocker+Mckenzie+Jacobson+to+spike+against+Pepperdine+on+Sept.+4+in+McKale+Center.+
Jesus Barrera
Arizona setter Penina Snuka sets the ball up for middle blocker Mckenzie Jacobson to spike against Pepperdine on Sept. 4 in McKale Center.

The Arizona women’s volleyball team will return to McKale Center this weekend after a historic two-week road trip nearly sweeping all four of the California schools.

The Wildcats will take on the Washington schools, which sit atop the Pac-12 Conference standings, starting Friday, Oct. 21. 

This is an important weekend for the Wildcats as they take on two top-20 teams for a pair of matches. This weekend sets up to be, perhaps, the most important of the year as Arizona can solidify its case for not only an NCAA tournament birth but also a chance at the Pac-12 title. 

It all starts with No. 18 Washington State who began the Pac-12 season 5-0, including three victories over top-10 teams. Washington State, however, has slowly lost its momentum by losing three straight matches, including two five-setters last weekend at home to Colorado and Utah.

The Cougars have a 6-3 record in the conference due to their strength at the net.  WSU leads the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.148) and total blocks (251).

Arizona will follow Friday’s matchup by taking on the highest-ranked team in the conference, No. 7 Washington, who leads at 6-2.

Washington is dominant in all positions but is led by junior setter Bailey Tanner. Tanner leads to Pac-12 in assist and sets (10.63) alongside Crissy Jones, who is the conference’s leader in aces and sets (0.40).

Out of conference, No. 17 Hawaii, Maryland and Oklahoma have all been defeated by the Huskies, who currently hold a 16-2 overall record. Washington faces a crucial stretch of games in Arizona, facing Arizona State first Friday night before coming to Tucson.

“Its going to be a tough weekend … every bit as competitive as the last two weekends that we’ve faced,” Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said. “It’s going to be two days of fierce competition.”   

In order to defeat the Washington teams, the Wildcats will need to continue their impressive play from sophomore Kendra Dahlke and senior Kalei Mau.

Mau will be an important player for the Wildcats this weekend. Being undoubtedly the best hitter in the team and in the conference, she is still recovering from a shoulder injury along with a bad back and has not put on the performance that fans are used to seeing from her on the court.

“My heart is on the court,” Mau said. “There’s one thing I want to do and that’s be out here with my team. 

The Wildcats have the potential to do well in the matches thanks to their improving health. The Wildcats’ top three scorers—Dahlke, Mau and Katarina Pilepic—are healthy and preparing for this weekend. 

“It’s good to have everyone back and on the same page,” Dahlke said. “Its excitement and the energy of the team. We are all on the court together and about to have some fun.” 

The Arizona Wildcats are one spot out of the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association Top 25 and are in the midst of the Pac-12 race.

“There’s an inner drive by this team,” Rubio said. “They know what is at stake and the legacy they want to leave, especially for the senior group.”


Follow Syrena Tracy and Nikki Baim on Twitter.


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