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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona volleyball’s streak ends at Cal; plenty on the line this week with Washington schools

Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildca
Arizona middle blocker Jade Turner (33) sets up for a spike during Arizona’s 3-0 win against Alabama State in McKale Center on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.

The Arizona Wildcats volleyball team has been on a roll, defeating three straight ranked teams heading into Sunday’s matchup with California. The Golden Bears, however, put a halt to Arizona’s winning streak in five sets, winning 3-2.

It was Cal’s first win over the Wildcats since 2013, according to Pac-12 Networks. 

The Wildcats started off sluggish and Cal took advantage of early miscues en route to a 25-22 win in the first set. Arizona recovered, efficiently picking apart the Golden Bear defense with an over .400 hitting percentage to win the second set 25-23 to regain momentum.

“It’s unfortunate we weren’t prepared to play,” Arizona head coach Dave Rubio told Arizona Athletics. “There was certainly a lot at stake and we didn’t take advantage of the opportunity that was presented.”

Though the Wildcats appeared to be back in control of the game, Cal never wavered and continued to attack Arizona. The Wildcats won the third set but the Golden Bears stole the momentum in the fourth thanks to the play of middle blocker Belen Castillo. 

She controlled the match with 20 kills on 32 total attacks including some timely hitting to keep Cal in the lead during the fourth set.

Arizona came out cold in the 15-point final set. Cal scored two quick kills and miscommunication between McKenzie Jacobson and Penina Snuka gave Cal a 3-0 lead. The Wildcats were plagued by unforced errors, especially on the serve, accruing 14 errors in the game.

“Cal played well but we were really poor,” Rubio told Arizona Athletics. “We were poor both physically and mentally. We were not ready to play.”

The Wildcats played catchup with the Bears for the rest of the set, but with such little room for error in a short match, Arizona couldn’t come back. The loss dropped the Wildcats to 13-7 on the season and 5-3 in the Pac-12 Conference.

The Wildcats had won three games in a row prior to Sunday’s matchup. Despite the loss, the Wildcats are still sitting in a position to control their own destiny in the Pac-12 race.

A crucial two-game set with the Washington schools—who sit atop the Pac-12 standings—begins Friday in McKale Center.

No. 13 Washington State is coming off a loss to Utah but is still at the top of the Pac-12. The Cougars boast a 15-5 overall record as well as a 5-3 record in conference. The Wildcats will have to continue to get outstanding play from sophomore Kendra Dahlke, especially defensively, as Cal was able to exploit weaknesses in the Wildcats’ defensive front on Sunday.

RELATED: Wildcats are on fire after beating third straight ranked team, taking down No. 12 Stanford

Senior Kalei Mau will be key for the Wildcats next weekend. Mau, arguably the best hitter on the team and in the conference, still seems to be struggling with a back injury and has yet to regain the form Wildcat fans are so used to seeing from her. 

She continues to battle and give UA a chance to win every match. The fact defenses have to set extra attention on her makes Mau such a threat for the Wildcats.

Following the Washington State game on Friday, the No. 7 Huskies come into town to take a hand at knocking the Wildcats off their game. 

Washington is atop the Pac-12 standings but faces a crucial stretch of games in Arizona, facing ASU first on Friday night. The Huskies have beaten quality non-conference foes in No. 17 Hawaii, Maryland and Oklahoma, and currently hold a 15-2 overall record.

Prior to Arizona’s road trip through California, the Wildcats faced only one ranked team at home in No. 21 Oregon on Oct. 1. This weekend will bring two, one a top-10 matchup that has potential to push the rest of the season in the Wildcats’ favor.

Follow Saul Bookman and Nikki Baim on Twitter.

Video Courtesy of Pac-12 Networks.

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