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Kendra Dahlke gets 1,000th career kill as Arizona opens Cactus Classic with two wins

The Wildcats volleyball team beat Lipscomb and San Diego State in their home opener to improve to 5-0 on the season

Courtesy of Arizona Athletics

The Arizona volleyball team hosted two matches Friday as part of the Cactus Classic. Here are the recaps for both.

Arizona 3, Lipscomb 0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-13)

On paper, it looked like the Arizona-Lipscomb match-up could be a dangerous one for the Wildcats. After all, not only did the Bisons beat UA last season, but they started out hot this season, beating Iowa and SMU.

Of course, the games aren’t played on paper and Arizona isn’t the same team they were last season. They showed that by sweeping Lipscomb 25-17, 25-20, 25-13 in the first game of hte Cactus Classic.

The Wildcats came out looking as if they had something to prove. At the very least, they knew that they couldn’t take the Bisons lightly.

“Lipscomb took us for...they gave us everything we could handle last year, and this year it was kinda like in the back of our minds because most of the girls were on the team still,” Kendra Dahlke said. “So it was nice that we were able to get them, for sure.”

Whether it was their intent or not, the team did prove something--that they could control a match against a quality opponent from start to finish.

After her performance last weekend, Dahlke didn’t need to prove anything herself, but she once again showed that she can take control of a match and not let go. After posting over 20 kills in two straight matches last weekend, she picked up where she left off with an 18-kill effort against Lipscomb.

While both 20+ efforts last week came in four and five-set matches, this performance came in three sets played in less than an hour and fifteen minutes. Dahlke played a nearly flawless match, notching only one error and hitting .515.

She was a threat from everywhere on the court, often flying in to end the point with a kill from the back row. No rotation was truly safe for the Bisons.

It was one for the Arizona record books, as well. With her team up a set and 15-10 in second, Dahlke put down the 1000th kill of her career. She joins 17 other Wildcats with that achievement. While it’s an important mark, she’s looking for her next challenge.

“It’s awesome having 1,000 kills. It’s obviously a huge milestone,” Dahlke said. “You hit that milestone and then you just keep going.”

Her teammates may have been a bit overshadowed by Dahlke’s record-setting effort, but they were also impressive. Junior setter Julia Patterson was responsible for 35 of the team’s 40 assists.

Junior Devyn Cross also followed up an impressive outing in last week’s Hornet Invitational with another outstanding effort in the home opener. Cross had 9 kills on only 11 attacks. With zero errors, she hit an eye-popping .818. Adding an ace and a solo block, she ended up with 11 points, second only to Dahlke.

Paige Whipple, who is still trying to get back on top of her game since surgery, stepped in for Katie Smoot. Smoot missed both of the day’s matches with illness, but Whipple was an effective replacement.

She notched 8 kills on 20 attacks with only three errors in the early match. Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said that they are trying to get Whipple not only back where she was, but to where she would have been had she not been forced to take time off. He felt she was finally getting on track towards reaching that goal this week in practice..

As a team, the Wildcats hit .432 for the match. They committed only eight errors on 88 attacks. Forty-six of those attacks found the floor for kills. The team threw in four aces.

On the defensive side, Arizona had ten assisted and two solo blocks. Shardonee Hayes led the way in the stat with 5 assisted blocks.

Arizona went to 4-0 on the season, while Lipscomb fell to 2-1. The Bisons would end the day with a loss to the Pacific Tigers, moving to 2-2.

Arizona 3, San Diego State 0 (25-22, 25-19, 25-17)

After a rough opening weekend in their home tournament, San Diego State was looking to regain their footing. Unfortunately for the Aztecs, they dropped their early match to Pacific before they even had a chance to face the host. It wasn’t a pretty match, but Arizona was able to drop SDSU to 1-4 by night’s end.

The Aztecs opened winning the first two points on a kill from Serena Hodson and an ace from Delaney Taylor. Like Lipscomb in Arizona’s first match, SDSU came out looking confident in their ability to compete with the Wildcats in McKale Center.

While Arizona led in every statistical category, they couldn’t take a lead until about two-thirds of the way through the first set. The Aztecs went toe-to-toe with the home team until the Wildcats tied it up at 16-16.

SDSU continued to keep the set close, but they wouldn’t take another lead in the set. At 23-21, the Wildcats earned their first game point off a pretty back set from Patterson that was put down by Cross. A service error from Malina Kalei Ua gave the Aztecs another chance, but a kill by Dahlke ended the set at 25-22.

The kill was one of 20 off 46 attacks from Dahlke, giving her at least 20 kills in three of her last four matches. Whipple added 12 of her own, giving the Wildcats the top two in kills for the match. They also contributed 16 digs between them--nine for Dahlke and seven for Whipple. The two outside hitters were only outdone by the two teams’ liberos.

Dahlke and Whipple combined for an effective one-two punch from the Wildcats. The two of them were top five in kills, attacks, digs, and points. Whipple also showed up in the top five for blocks.

Hayes was again the team (and match) leader in blocks, getting six over the course of the match. She was closely followed by teammate Elizabeth Shelton with five.

While the match was not as clean as Arizona’s earlier contest against Lipscomb, the Wildcats were able to handle the Aztecs in three sets. They closed out the second set on a 9-4 run to win 25-19. The Wildcats wrapped up the final set with 18 kills leading to a 25-17 final score.

“I think it was all rough. I think the first set was the roughest. Second set was rough, but I thought we were going to smooth out a little bit and then we just kinda started airing out again. I just think that each match and the complexion of each match is different, and this morning was pretty simple, pretty easy. And then other times , for whatever reason, it becomes a lot more difficult to execute,” Rubio said.

“There are different opponents, and they certainly play a part in that not being sharp. And so it’s nice to be able to do that and still be able to be successful at it. We got some more room to grow, no question about it. Hopefully tomorrow will be in a position to play a little bit better.”

Arizona faces the Pacific Tigers on Saturday at noon. Both teams enter the match with a 2-0 record in the Cactus Classic. The Tigers are 3-2 overall.