A good challenge and some wins. That’s what Arizona head coach Dave Rubio wanted out of the Wildcats’ trip to the Hornet Invitational. They got both.
Arizona wrapped up their trip to Sacramento with a 3-1 win over the host Sacramento State Hornets (25-12, 25-17, 26-28, 25-17) on Saturday.
With the win, the Wildcats won the Hornet Invitational by finishing with a 3-0 record. They beat Cal State Northridge and Utah State on Friday.
Saturday’s match got underway at 2:05, after a half-hour delay. The delay didn’t slow down Kendra Dahlke, who was named the tournament MVP when all was said and done. Over four sets, she racked up 24 kills. After 28 kills in the five-set win over Utah State Friday evening, she had back-to-back 20-kill matches for the first time in her career.
Dahlke wasn’t just a point-scoring machine over the weekend. She was also extremely efficient and accurate. She put together three matches with hitting percentages over .300, going .414 against CSUN, .400 against Utah State, and .316 against Sacramento State.
The problem for the Wildcats was that Dahlke and Elizabeth Shelton were the only ones hitting over .250 on Saturday. Shelton hit .286 for the match with 12 kills. While Devyn Cross threw in 9 kills and Katie Smoot had 7, they hit .227 and .057 respectively.
As a team, the Wildcats’ hitting percentage dropped dramatically as the match progressed, going from .452 in the first set to bottom out at .095 in the fourth. Each set saw Arizona become less effective on offense.
They didn’t have any problems in the first set, though. The set started out fairly tight, with the two teams staying within two points of each other until about about a quarter of the way through.
With the Wildcats ahead 7-6, they started to pull away from the Hornets. A 17-6 run gave Arizona the set point. Candice Denny put an end to it with the kill, giving the Wildcats the first set by a score of 25-12.
Arizona controlled the second set, as well, but was slightly less efficient. Their hitting percentage fell dramatically to .235. It didn’t keep them from controlling the set, though.
The Wildcats started strong, running the score to 9-4 before Sacramento State coach Ruben Volta was forced to call time out. At that point, Arizona was hitting .750.
Out of the timeout, a service error from Maline Kalei Ua gave the Hornets their fifth point. It was the third point off an Arizona service error for the set.
The Wildcats got back into the groove off the arm of Dahlke. Three straight kills gave her 12 for the match and forced Volta to call another timeout with Arizona ahead 12-5.
Sacramento State continued to have most of its success off the errors of Arizona. Of their final 12 points, seven came off attack and service errors of the Wildcats. For the set, the Hornets tallied 11 of their 17 points off of their opponent’s errors.
Fortunately for Arizona, the Hornets were throwing in their own errors. After pushing the score to 24-17, the Wildcats closed it out on a bad set from Ashtin Olin.
Sacramento State wasn’t done, despite being down 0-2. They came out more aggressive in the third, grabbing a 10-6 lead before Rubio called a timeout.
The Wildcats responded, going on a 6-2 run to close it to 12-10 in the Hornets’ favor. Arizona would stay close for the rest of the set, eventually tying it at 20-20.
Neither team could distance themselves, with Sacramento State pushing ahead one point only to be tied by Arizona on the next until they reached 26-26. The difficulty closing out sets had cropped up for the Hornets against both USU and CSUN, and it looked like it might cost them again.
A Smoot service error gave Sacramento State another set point. That was followed by a kill from Sacramento State OH Macey Hayden when the ball went wide off the Arizona block. The Hornets finally closed out the set by a score of 28-26.
Arizona’s offensive efficiency was an even bigger struggle in the fourth set. After hitting .145 in the third, they bottomed out at .095 in the deciding set.
In the end, it didn’t cost them because the Hornets struggled more, ending the set with a hitting percentage of -.059. For the match, Arizona hit .212, while Sacramento State hit .095.
The Wildcats controlled the final set, building a 13-5 lead halfway through. The Hornets never got closer than five points the rest of the way. For a match that had errors crop up at so many crucial points, it ended appropriately on a service error from Sacramento State’s Paige Calvin. The Wildcats took the set at 25-17 for the 3-1 match win.
In addition to Dahlke, Arizona placed middle blocker Devyn Cross and setter Julia Patterson on the All-Tournament team.
The 3-0 Wildcats return to the court Friday when they host Lipscomb as part of the Cactus Classic. Game time in McKale Center is set for 10 a.m.