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Arizona volleyball: Wildcats sweep No. 15 USC Trojans

UA hands the Trojans their first conference loss of the season

Photo via @ArizonaVBall on Twitter

It was a sight for sore eyes for longtime Arizona Wildcats volleyball coach Dave Rubio on Friday night.

The Wildcats, who entered Friday’s match on a four-match losing streak, dominated the 15th-ranked USC Trojans, earning a straight-sets sweep (25-23, 25-17, 26-24).

In doing so, the Wildcats gave the visiting Trojans their first taste of defeat in conference play, snapping the visiting team’s five-match win streak.

The 26th-year Wildcats coach praised his team’s effort against a mighty USC squad, earning more kills (41-35), blocks (11-6), digs (45-42) and hits (.262-.140) than the Trojans.

“It’s certainly nice to win, you’re never sure in this conference about what’s going to happen,” Rubio said. “It’s hard to know when you’re going to win, and like I’ve said in the past it’s really about the process for us. It’s nice to be able to reinforce what we’ve been doing every day in practice by winning.”

The Wildcats were led on Friday night by senior Kendra Dahlke, who had a team-high 11 kills, and teammate Paige Whipple, who added 10 more.

Dahlke spoke afterward about the meaning of the win for the program, and how much improvement they showed after getting swept by UCLA on Wednesday night.

“After the loss to UCLA, I think our mentality was focusing on what we needed to take care of,” Dahlke said. “We’re trying to not worry about what the other team is doing and just focusing on ourselves and executing.”

The win ensured the Wildcats would garner a win against UCLA or USC for the seventh consecutive season, pushing Arizona to 8-7 this year, with a 2-4 record in Pac-12 play.

"It's been a long couple of weeks for us, the last time we had a day off was a week ago Tuesday,” Rubio said. “We've been at it now for 9 straight days, and I'm pleased by the way that we've gone about our business. I just know that eventually we're going to start to play better and more consistently.

“The problem is that in our conference even though you're playing better it doesn't always equal the winning. Even against UCLA I thought there were moments that we played really well, but they were just too good that night. It's tough to be such a young team in such an unforgiving conference."

The Wildcats have two more home matches against teams currently ranked in the AVCA top-25 poll, in Utah (on Friday night) and Colorado (on Sunday).