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Arizona volleyball snaps losing streak, sweeps Colorado in Kendra Dahlke’s return

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Arizona’s star outside hitter returned, and the Wildcats got back to winning ways.

Kendra Dahlke, who missed the previous match with a concussion, had a game-high 13 kills as No. 25 Arizona swept Colorado (25-21, 25-23, 25-22) on Friday in McKale Center.

It snaps UA’s four-game losing streak. They improve to 15-6 overall and 4-5 in the Pac-12.

“A win’s a win. I don’t think we were that sharp offensively,” said UA head coach Dave Rubio. “There were parts of our game that I thought were very good, our serving and passing I thought tonight was excellent. But in this conference when you lose four matches in a row, you’re not sure when you’re going to win again so it was nice to feel what it was like to win.”

Rubio thought Dahlke, who leads the Pac-12 in kills/set, was “OK” in her return. She posted a .114 hitting percentage. Arizona hit .151 as a team, six points better than Colorado.

“I thought she showed some of the effects of being out all week and I don’t think our offense was in sync,” Rubio said. “I thought we were a little bit slow. The match was kinda slow in general, but again, I think it was nice to have her back and now that we have everybody back ostensibly, it’s something to build on.”

Dahlke suffered the concussion last Friday at UCLA, and said she suffered from headaches, blurred vision, nausea and the inability to focus, before she started to feel better earlier this week.

Arizona was preparing as if it was going to be without her, making sure Katie Smoot was ready to fill in if needed, but Dahlke was good to go by the time Friday’s match rolled around, saying she’s now symptom-free.

“I really wanted to get back. There was no real timeline for head injuries but I was feeling good enough the past couple days to come in and play,” she said.

The Wildcats came back from an early deficit to win the first set, and blew a six-point lead in the second set before narrowly outlasting CU.

The two teams were tied at 13 in the third set before Arizona pulled away.

Junior setter Julia Patterson added a double-double (25 assists, 16 digs) plus four kills and four blocks. Shardonee Hayes and Paige Whipple each had seven kills. Hayes hit a team-best .417.

“It was pretty important just to give us that confidence again,” Patterson said of the win. “Obviously we had that great start with beating the Oregon schools, and then losing the past four games, you could tell the team was a little bit down. So even though we’re putting in the work everyday and coming in in the mornings and working hard, it wasn’t really paying off. So I think this win will really help us get back into it mentally.”

The Wildcats host Utah on Sunday at noon to complete the homestand. Patterson said they have heightened confidence now that they are closer to full strength.

Arizona is still without outside hitter Elizabeth Shelton, who has been out for a month with a concussion.

“Like Dave tells us everyday, we’re going to be playing our best volleyball by the end of the season if we just keep working and having that next mentality — next play, next game,” Patterson said. “(If we do that), we have a chance to go far in the playoffs.”

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