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Arizona volleyball moves up in polls, Kendra Dahlke named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week

Weekend sweep of the Oregon schools gets the team and their star noticed

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The Arizona Wildcats won some people over by playing Stanford tough on the road the first week of conference play. They won even more by sweeping their road matches in the state of Oregon last weekend. Monday, the team and their star hitter received recognition for their achievements.

Kendra Dahlke was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. The senior outside hitter averaged 5.0 kills and 3.38 digs per set over the weekend on her way to her league-leading tenth and eleventh double-doubles this season.

Friday, Dahlke moved to No. 10 on the all-time career kills list for Arizona when she accounted for 26 kills in the five-set victory over the No. 12 Ducks. She followed that up with 14 kills against the Beavers in Arizona’s three-set win Sunday.

When head coach Dave Rubio reached his own milestone a few weeks ago — winning his 500th game — he talked about how it was something that he might reflect more on after he was retired. Dahlke had a similar take on her streak of milestones and honors this season, which include not only those reached this week, but also hitting her 1,000th career kill earlier in the season.

“I’ll think about it more later,” she said. “Now, you hear about it on social media and everything, but really the main focus is just focusing on what’s going on in the next game, the next match. So, yeah, you recognize it. It’s awesome to celebrate, but I think it’ll have more of an impact on me later on.”

Congrats to Kendra Dahlke, the Pac-12 Conference’s Offensive Player of the Week. Here’s what the Arizona Volleyball star had to say about her big week in Oregon

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Dahlke and her team rode their performance to the No. 21 spot in this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll. The team entered the poll last week at No. 24 after beating ASU and losing a tough four-set match to No. 2 Stanford on the road. They had been receiving votes for several weeks, and were finally pushed into the top 25 by a valiant effort against the Cardinal.

The Wildcats backed up their “good loss” with their first road sweep of the Oregon schools in eight years.

“It was a terrific weekend,” Rubio said. “It’s rare that we get a road sweep, especially against two really good teams. The match against Oregon was as close as they come. I was proud of the way we were able to execute at the end of the sets that we won. It’s a reflection of how we’ve been practicing and, I think, a reflection on the development that we’ve gone through the last 12 months.”

Dave Rubio reflects on Arizona Volleyball’s big sweep in Oregon, Kendra Dahlke’s excellence and his team exceeding expectations

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The team is now 14-2 on the season and 3-1 in conference play. While Rubio says he knew the team would be much better, he believes they’re a little ahead of where he expected the team to be. Dahlke said that this was something the team knew they could do, although they’ve exceeded most outside expectations.

“If you’re basing it off last year, yeah [we’ve exceeded expectations],” she said. “But if you’re basing it off our spring, this is kind of what we expected from a team standpoint. But if you’re basing if off last year, like in Pac-12 play, yeah, definitely. It’s been a complete turnaround for us as far as record goes and everything, how we’re playing against opponents. But basing off how we were competing in spring, I think this is what we were expecting.”

Before the season started, Dahlke said she wanted to win the PAC-12 title before she left school. Although the Wildcats would need help to do that, they are currently second in the standings. If the team continues playing as they have, Dahlke’s early hopes may not be far off.

The Wildcats are currently No. 35 in the unofficial RPI, a 19-spot improvement from last week. That bodes well for their NCAA Tournament hopes, even if they don’t get the automatic bid.