While the Arizona Wildcats got a key victory over the Utah Utes on Sunday it came at a terrible price. Star senior Kendra Dahlke left the match with an apparent leg injury in the fourth set of Arizona’s 26-24, 25-13, 18-25, 25-20 win.
Injuries have been nothing new to Arizona, with five players suffering concussions earlier at various times this season including Dahlke last Friday at UCLA. Liz Shelton was also out with an injury on Sunday, and setter Julia Patterson was battling strep throat, according to coach David Rubio.
Before her injury, Dahlke played great, hitting .183 and amassing 21 kills. Despite her illness, Patterson also had a phenomenal match, assisting 44 times and getting 11 digs.
After a tight first set where the Wildcats held off two Utah runs to win 26-24, Arizona dominated late in the second set to win 25-13. The third set went to the Utes 25-18 after a late scoring run, and Arizona rallied after Dahlke’s injury in the fourth to win 25-20, for a 3-1 victory and a sweep of the Mountain schools over the weekend.
After the game, coach Rubio noted that the injuries seemed to be “par for the course this season. It really hurts us when we lose Kendra and Paige [Whipple].”
Rubio also noted the encouraging signs of the victory, saying “our serving today was really good,” and pointing out great performances from Katie Smoot (.417 hitting percentage), Makenna Martin (nine assists, 18 digs) and Emi Pua’a (10 digs).
With the victory, Arizona (16-6, 5-5 Pac-12) returns to .500 in conference play and is likely to rise in the AVCA poll, where it placed 25th this past week. The Wildcats will also be sure to rise in the RPI ratings, where they were 46th entering the week.
Next week, the ‘Cats face the Oregon schools in Tucson. Earlier in the season, Arizona won a hard-fought five-setter against then-No. 12 Oregon in Eugene and also swept Oregon State.
Rubio “will be keeping [his] fingers crossed for a full lineup” next Friday, but “it doesn’t look like that’s in the cards for us this season.”
Despite the now two-game winning streak and a likely victory against the Beavers coming up, it’s looking more and more like this team is simply snakebitten when it comes to injuries.