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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona volleyball accomplishes historic feat on Dave Rubio’s night, knocks off No. 9 UCLA

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Logan Cook
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Friday night was special for Arizona volleyball. The Wildcats swept No. 9 UCLA at home on a night of celebration for head coach Dave Rubio’s 25 years of coaching. Arizona went undefeated against USC and UCLA at home and on the road for the first time in school history.

“I owe so much to Dave,” Arizona outside hitter Kalei Mau said. “There was extra fire in getting me to go. I’m forever in debt to him, he’s given so much.”

“I love playing for him both on and off the court. He teaches great life lessons and he coaches every player to their potential,” Wildcat libero Laura Larson said. “I know when we got out on the court tonight we said, ‘let’s do this for Dave.’

And the team did just that.

In the first set, both teams came out ready to play. Arizona and UCLA participated in long rallies that featured stellar defense on both ends, but the Bruins took control of the score early. UCLA doubled the Wildcat’s score twice while Arizona chipped away at the lead. Finally, Mau locked up the set at 12 with her first of eight kills in the set.

Her offense sparked the rest of the attackers while Larson’s seven digs on defense guided Arizona to a back and forth battle with the Bruins.

The first set would take more than 25 points to be decided. Arizona tried to get Kendra Dahlke going in the late points of the set, giving her every chance to put the set away. UCLA’s defense wouldn’t let that happen until Dahlke finally snuck a ball past the defenders to earn her third kill of the set and put Arizona up 26-25.

Devyn Cross’ huge block closed the set, giving the Wildcats a come from behind 28-26 victory.

Mau carried her team into the second set on fire. Within the first ten points of the set, she had accumulated a .409 hitting percentage to contribute to the .438 team total. Katarina Pilepic followed her classmate’s lead with four early set kills of her own, improving the Wildcats to a comfortable 7-2 lead.

UCLA diminished the Wildcat’s lead and kept it close through the middle of the set, tying the game multiple times. However, Arizona wasn’t deterred by the Bruins’ comeback and pushed until it took the set 25-21 on a UCLA attacking error on the set point.

Before the third set, Arizona honored Rubio’s accomplishments by bringing back alumni from his 25 years as head coach at Arizona. The ceremony featured a video of his highest moments and honors for all the women’s lives he impacted as a coach and mentor.

The third set started off all UCLA, but quickly turned around when Dahlke and Mau took over. Back-to-back kills and a block by Dahlke gave Arizona its first lead of the set, 8-7. After Dahlke’s offense gave her team the momentum, Mau took over.

After the offense solidified Arizona’s lead, Penina Snuka’s defense drove the Wildcats to run away with the set. The Wildcats beat the Bruins 25-20 to complete the sweep of the match and achieve their sixth victory against ranked opponents this season.

Mau scored the final point of the match with a hard hit kill that sent McKale Center into a frenzy. The crowd erupted while the Arizona bench stormed the court to celebrate a special night in Arizona volleyball history.

“A big night all the way around,” Rubio said. “The kids were extra motivated, not that they need the extra motivation, to play well tonight. … Tonight was terrific, a good reinforcement. It validates a lot of things we’ve been saying.”

This match epitomized Rubio’s expectations for his seniors and team. Snuka, a team captain, supported her teammates and took her errors upon herself to be a better leader. Middle McKenzie Jacobson was struggling early with two errors in the first set, but Snuka showed faith in Jacobson by setting her up to bounce back and earn seven kills on the night.

“Leading by example on the court,” Mau said. “Our teammates see us playing on our game, I always say If everyone plays 100 percent that means we come out 100 percent.”

Next, Arizona will travel to Washington to face the Huskies and the Washington State Cougars, two teams which defeated Arizona at home earlier in the season. After so much success this weekend, the Wildcats feel confident in their upcoming matchups.

“We’ve learned our lesson coming off a hot win,” Larson said. “We’re going to go hard and we’re going to play as hard as we can. No let downs.” 


Follow Nikki Baim on Twitter.


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