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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Volleyball falls to defending champs in four games at home

    Sophomore libero Brittany Leonard lays out for a ball during Arizonas four-set loss to No. 6 Washington Friday in front of assistant coach Chris Gonzalez.
    Sophomore libero Brittany Leonard lays out for a ball during Arizona’s four-set loss to No. 6 Washington Friday in front of assistant coach Chris Gonzalez.

    Following the loss to Washington State Thursday night, UA volleyball head coach Dave Rubio said for the first time this season that the postseason may be out of reach.

    After Arizona (10-11, 1-8 Pacific 10 Conference) took the No. 6 defending champion Washington Huskies (17-3, 7-2) to four games – losing 30-21, 30-20, 24-30, and 30-26 – Rubio didn’t change his mind about his earlier playoff comments, but he was more optimistic about where his team is at.

    “”Washington is a good team,”” Rubio said. “”I am not overwhelmed by anybody in the conference. They are all obviously better than we are at this point, but I still don’t think we are that far away.””

    Arizona has struggled considerably with its attack errors so far this season, but the Wildcats were able to keep them at a minimum against Washington.

    The Wildcats posted only 22 attack errors – 10 fewer than Washington and two fewer than they had after only two games Thursday night against WSU – while posting a .189 hitting percentage.

    “”Obviously keeping the ball in play is crucial in this sport,”” said sophomore libero Brittany Leonard. “”The fact that we kept the ball in the court and in rhythm gave us an advantage.””

    Arizona came out hot in the first game with a 6-0 run to take a 10-5 lead over the Huskies early, only to have Washington use a 6-1 run of its own to tie the game at 11. For the rest of the game, the score went back and forth until Arizona trailed 21-20, only to give up a 9-1 run to lose.

    Washington was the team that came out swinging in the second game, as they bolted out to a 17-7 lead and coasted to an eventual 10-point victory.

    With the use of a .326 hitting percentage, the Wildcats cruised out to a 15-8 early lead. The Huskies did what they do best as they used a 7-1 run to get within one, but Arizona outscored Washington 9-4 late to take the third game.

    “”For the first time this year, the players went out and actually tried to take something they wanted,”” Rubio said. “”They finally got tired of being pushed around and they started to push back a little bit and started to say it’s time for us to take our destiny into our own hands, and we have to do it by playing better.””

    The Wildcats have had double-digit blocks in 15 of their 16 games, including Saturday night’s match, when they posted 17 to Washington’s 8.5.

    Defense has been a crutch the Wildcats have used all season to keep games close, and Saturday’s match was no exception.

    “”I think we have been working really hard on defense, and it is starting to pay off,”” said Leonard, who had 23 digs.

    Senior setter Stephanie Butkus had 50 assists and 13 digs and Buringrud also added 13 digs.

    Rubio described outside hitter Whitney Dosty’s performance as “”unbelievable,”” as she tallied 17 kills on a .154 hitting percentage.

    Dosty saw much more time than she usually does, as she’s usually taken out for defensive purposes, but the team needed her on offense Saturday. Rubio said the freshman was so effective because she can score from both the front and the back row.

    “”She got into a rhythm attackingwise because she never got taken off the court,”” Rubio said. “”That really changed the complexion of the match.””

    Sophomore outside hitter Brooke Buringrud added 14 kills on .180 hitting.

    Although Arizona is continuing to lose games, Rubio said he is seeing much improvement out of his young team.

    “”Our focus now is by the end of the season we could look at ourselves as one of the best teams in the country,”” Rubio said.

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