A win was always going to be a long shot for the Arizona Wildcats as they traveled to Pullman to face the No. 21 Washington State Cougars.
With a cobbled-together lineup, putting up a good fight was probably the best they could hope for. They were able to accomplish that feat, at least through the first two sets.
In the end, the Cougars (16-3, 5-2) were just too much. Arizona (11-8, 1-6) was only able to win 21.4 percent of the points on its own serve compared to 41.9 percent for Washington State.
When it came time to side out, the Wildcats were successful 58.1 percent of the time. Washington State was able to take the serve back at a 78.6 percent clip. It was enough for a 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-17) victory for the Cougars.
The Wildcats were led on offense by Paige Whipple with 13 kills on .104 hitting. Katie Smoot added 9 kills on .138 hitting. They were joined by Kamaile Hiapo, who made the move from libero to outside hitter, as coach Dave Rubio suggested she would. Hiapo had 3 kills and 9 digs on the night.
On a positive note, Devyn Cross returned to her usual efficient self with 7 kills on .583 hitting. The senior middle blocker led the NCAA in hitting percentage until last week when she had hit .111 against Stanford and -.100 against California. She shook that off, committing zero attack errors in the match.
Senior setter Julia Patterson had another double-double with 26 assists and 10 digs. She also had Arizona’s only service ace.
The Wildcats were able to stay in the first two sets by playing a relatively clean game. After their coach described the team as “our own worst enemy” earlier in the week, they cut down on the errors that have made winning so difficult this season.
Arizona had 19 attack errors, which was five more than their opponent, but completely understandable against this level of competition. The Wildcats committed only one service error and one blocking error, but put up zeros for reception errors and ballhandling errors.
In set one, it looked like the Wildcats were going to give Washington State all that they could handle. Arizona held a lead of two to three points until the Cougars tied it up at 16-16. From there, the home team closed out the set on a 9-4 run, and Arizona had fallen into a one-set hole.
The Wildcats again came out fighting in the second set. The Cougars were able to get things under control earlier this time, taking the lead for good at 8-7 and closing out the match in three sets.
Arizona faces Washington on Sunday at 12 p.m. MST. The match will air on Pac-12 Arizona.