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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona volleyball: Wildcats’ skid moves to three after loss to No. 7 Huskies


Arizona volleyball celebrates its win against Oregon State Friday, Sept. 30. The team won its recent match against UCLA 3-2 Sunday, Oct. 9, making this the second win against a ranked team in the weekend.

After a two-game skid with loses to California and Washington State, Arizona women’s volleyball was desperate for a win against Washington at home on Sunday, but couldn’t overcome the No. 7 Huskies and suffered its third defeat in a row.

Arizona came out on a roll by acquiring an early lead in the first set, but a sloppy defense and lack of communication allowed Washington to battle back into the game and take a mid-set lead.

Washington earned three service aces in the first set due to Arizona’s slow reactions to soft-hit balls—one on a Washington set point at 25-24. Libero Laura Larson called a ball “out” that landed just within the end line. That final play characterized the set and gave the Wildcats a lot to think about going into the second set.

“A lot of errors,” is all assistant coach Gregg White could say while shaking his head walking by the scorer’s table after the frustrating first set.

The second set mirrored the first, but the teams reversed roles. Washington took a 3-0 lead and forced the Wildcats to play catchup late into the set. The Wildcats and Huskies engaged in long rallies, but most ended with a Washington kill or Arizona error.

Down seven points midway through the set, Arizona took the leadership of setter Penina Snuka to pull the team back for a late lead.

“As someone who’s constantly touching the ball and as someone who’s constantly on the court, I just need to show my team that I’m more steady and that I’m there for them and supporting them,” Snuka said.

The intensity heightened in McKale Center when the Wildcats took a 21-20 lead in the second set. Arizona was called for a block-touch that an unsettled crowd and flustered Arizona bench disagreed with. In the midst of the crowd’s boos, Washington committed a service error that gave Arizona the energy they needed to come storming back and take the set 25-23.

     Related: Wildcats fall to No. 18 Cougars, Mau re-injures back

Arizona’s attackers continued to struggle against the Huskies’ block in the third set. The team still didn’t communicate, resulting in more errors, and the Wildcats went down early and had to rally back into the game.

Kalei Mau played a quiet, but consistent game through the first two sets. She became a force in the third and led the trailing Wildcats to a 21-20 lead on her sixth kill of the set.

From the Wildcats comeback emerged a tight battle between the two schools. Snuka did her best to find Mau on every set possible, but Mau failed to put the ball away, which allowed the Huskies’ to hold off Arizona 28-26.

The game had slowed down by the fourth set with Washington in control. Arizona settled into a catch up role early and were unable to pull out of it. Arizona’s errors overwhelmed their play, and Washington ran away with the set in a 25-20 victory.

Arizona’s block was weak against the Huskies. Washington relied on its outside players to produce offense, forcing the Arizona middles to be active on both sides of the court. The middles were late on the blocks, however, and continuously got tooled. 

Arizona was outblocked in the match 17-5.5. Though Washington lacked size, its instincts and play at the net were a huge factor in them coming away with the win.

“If I had to do it over, I may have tactically done some different things with our block,” Arizona head coach David Rubio said.

Mau, who is still fighting a back injury, looked as healthy as she has all season on Sunday and finished with 23 kills. Kendra Dahlke was the second greatest offensive threat for Arizona and finished with 15 kills.

With two losses this weekend, Arizona’s window for a conference championship has most likely closed. Sitting at 5-5 in the Pac-12 Conference, the Wildcats have fallen into the bottom six teams and are running out of time to improve their record.

This weekend was a disappointment and the team is struggling to face the reality of what the losses mean.

“We have nobody to blame but ourselves for how we’re playing, how we’re preparing for matches. To come home and lose two at home, it’s a lot to swallow,” Rubio said.

The Wildcats’ are 5-3 in McKale Center this season and Rubio attributes the record to the number of distractions at home. 

“We kind of get lax when we’re home,” Mau said. “It starts with yourself, take care of your responsibilities, go out there and do your job.”

The root of this problem looks to also come from the way the team practices.

“It’s the little things we need to work on,” Snuka said. “Not slacking off and taking breaks [in practice]. Not to take a play off here and there, we need to keep pushing.”

The Wildcats head to Oregon next week in a rematch against Oregon and Oregon State and will attempt to fight back into a competitive Pac-12 race that is currently slipping out of reach. 

Follow Nikki Baim on Twitter.

Video Courtesy of Pac-12 Networks.

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