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Arizona volleyball beats ASU on Senior Day, sweeps season series

A good ending to a rough week for Arizona Athletics

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

The Arizona volleyball team took down ASU in four sets (25-17, 25-17, 23-25, 25-17) Saturday in McKale Center to wrap up the 2017 campaign.

The Wildcats finish the year with an 11-18 record, their lowest win total since 1992, but swept the season series against the rival Sun Devils.

"It was nice to finish off the season with a full point for the Territorial Cup," said UA head coach Dave Rubio.

"I'm sad that it's come to an end and I was telling the players how much I'll miss seeing them in the gym and helping them get better. To me, it seems like the season just started which is a good thing because when you lose as much as we did this year, most teams would feel the exact opposite. But I wish we had another month to train and I think most of the players would feel the same way."

It was a positive ending to a nightmare week for Arizona Athletics. The UA basketball team stunningly lost three games in three days in the Bahamas, while the football team lost the Territorial Cup to ASU in frustrating fashion just before UA volleyball took the floor.

“We saw the results of the football game right before we started our game, so it kinda gave us more motivation to win,” said UA outside hitter Kendra Dahlke, who tallied 13 kills.

They probably didn’t need it.

"Flashing back to last year when we lost up there in five, it was a very close game, and every time we play ASU you know it's going to be an intense match and everyone wants to do really well," Dahlke said. "There's always motivation to beat them, so it's always awesome when we do.”

UA freshman Paige Whipple had a team-high 19 kills Saturday, while sophomore setter Julia Patterson had 46 assists.

Arizona posted a 5-15 record in Pac-12 play — ASU finished 0-20 (!) — in what was expectedly a rebuilding year for the Wildcats. They lost several key members from the 2016 squad that reached the Sweet 16, and only had three seniors on the roster.

Plus, several of the team’s top players, like Whipple and Patterson, are underclassmen.

“Inconsistent,” Rubio described his team’s play this season. “It was just really frustrating at times, really enjoyable at times, but really full of growth for the team. For us to be elite for this group, we kinda had to go through it. I wish we didn’t have to but I think that because we went through it, it’s going to make our team so much more mentally strong and physically better next year and the year to follow.”

Rubio said the attitude of the team’s underclassmen is one reason he is optimistic about the program’s future.

“The sophomore and freshman group have been terrific, and that’s why I want to be in the gym with them everyday, because the amount of improvement and excitement and enthusiasm they bring to the gym everyday has been really outstanding,” he said.

“I know that every minute that I can spend with them they’re going to get better. They’re the kinda kids, with time, that will be able to compete in the upper half of the conference and put us in a position to win at the elite level.”