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Arizona swept out of the NCAA Tournament by Missouri

Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The Arizona Wildcats didn’t seem to get started before they were sent home by the Missouri Tigers in three sets (25-17, 25-22, 25-18).

Missouri dominated in almost every statistical category. The Tigers were especially effective on offense, with three players getting double-digit kills and the team hitting .412 for the match. Only one player—Kylie Deberg—hit below .300, and even she hit .273.

It seemed like everything Missouri hit found the floor while Arizona struggled to find a response. Whether it was finding their way through the hands of Arizona’s blockers or watching their mishits go off the net and onto Arizona’s side of the court, everything went right for the Tigers.

Dariana Hollingsworth and Deberg led their team with 11 kills each. Alyssa Munlyn threw in 10 of her own on a .833 hitting percentage from the middle blocker position.

Redshirt freshman setter Andrea Fuentes had 44 kills. She outpaced the 27 from Wildcat setter Julia Patterson, although Patterson put up yet another double-double.

The Tigers were able to keep the Wildcats from getting momentum on serve, getting sideouts on 64.4% of their opportunities.

There simply wasn’t an area of play that stood out in Arizona’s favor.

For the Wildcats, sophomore Paige Whipple tied for the match lead with her 11 kills. The Tigers held Kendra Dahlke well under her previous average of 4.82 per set. Dahlke had 10 kills to go with her 9 digs.

The Tigers opened with a fairly easy first set. After the final tie at 8-8, they steadily built their lead. The Wildcats were unable to stop the bleeding, finally losing 17-25.

Down the stretch of Pac-12 play, Arizona had come back from early deficits, even responding from 0-2 down to win in five sets on more than one occasion. It looked like they might pull that off when the second set started.

The Wildcats built a 16-12 lead and looked like the set might be in their hands. The Tigers just wouldn’t go away.

Missouri fought back to tie it at 18-18. The Wildcats took one more lead at 19-18, then the Tigers took control. They closed out the set on a 7-3 run to go up 2-0.

Missouri controlled the final set from the opening, when they went out to a 3-0 lead. After an Arizona timeout at 1-4, the Wildcats fought back to tie it at 5-all. They just couldn’t get the set under control.

Missouri used a 4-0 run to go up 9-5, and the match was essentially over. Arizona coach Dave Rubio called another timeout, but the Wildcats weren’t able to lift their play. Another run, this time 12-7, put Missouri four points from the second round.

The Wildcats finally put together a small 6-4 run to make the final score a bit more respectable, but the hole was too deep. A service error by the Wildcats gave the Tigers match point. They capitalized on a ball handling error, sending Arizona home.

Missouri moves on to face Nebraska in the second round. The Wildcats end their season with a 22-11 record.

As for Dahlke, she moves on from her career as a Wildcat. She ended the season with 487 kills, good for 4.77 per set. Her Arizona career ends with 1,408 total kills, placing her seventh on the school’s all-time list.

While all but two of her teammates will return for another year in Tucson, Dahlke is off on an international adventure.

“I’m kind of looking to pursue (volleyball) professionally,” she said. “I’ll be done (with school) in December, so I’ll be pushing to play overseas as soon as January, which is intense, but it’ll be fun.”

The season had its ups and downs, but ultimately it’s about the fun the players have and the preparation for the next steps in their lives. Dahlke has made it through a tough four years and can now look back. The rest of the team will look forward to next season.