Would 24th-ranked Arizona have a letdown match after knocking off No. 12 Oregon two days ago? Would Oregon State complete a mission of redemption after being swept at home by Arizona State?
Those questions were answered decisively by the Wildcats, who dominated the Beavers on Sunday afternoon. In under 90 minutes of playing time, Arizona (14-2, 3-1 Pac-12) had completed a 25-18, 25-13, 25-22 sweep that wasn’t even as close as the scores would indicate.
For only the second time this season, Kendra Dahlke played in a match but didn’t lead the team in kills or points. In the Sept. 7 match vs UTEP, Dahlke played but did not lead the team in either category.
Just as in the UTEP match, it was Oregon native Paige Whipple leading the way for the Wildcats with 18 kills and 19.5 points. Whipple also hit an astonishing .515 on 33 attacks. She was one dig shy of a double-double.
That’s not to say that the newest member of Arizona’s top 10 career kills club wasn’t as dominant as usual. Dahlke still finished second in the match with 14 kills and 14 points while hitting .302. She was also second in the match for digs, saving the rally 14 times for yet another double-double.
Although Dahlke’s kills per set have dropped to 4.58 in conference play, she’s still finding the floor 5.21 times per set for the season. That has her ranked first in the conference and third in the nation.
Devyn Cross was as important as anyone on the court, though. The middle blocker was third on the team with eight kills on a .727 hitting percentage. She also had four blocks—one solo and three assisted. Altogether, she accounted for 10.5 points, the fourth-highest point total for the match and third-highest for Arizona.
Julia Patterson did what she always does: kept the offense moving, picking apart the opposing defense. She ended with a match-leading 39 assists. Patterson also got three kills of her own, accounting for 4.5 points.
The Wildcats' dominance was illustrated by their clean play. Of the starters, only Candice Denny struggled with a low hitting percentage. Denny, starting in place of the injured Katie Smoot, was hampered by five hitting errors on 17 attacks.
You play with who’s available, though, and Arizona proved that it has the depth to overcome injuries to two starters. In addition to Smoot, Liz Shelton missed her third match while in concussion protocol. Cross also sat out briefly in the third set after landing on a teammate’s foot and appearing to twist her ankle.
Arizona coach Dave Rubio just plugged in a few different players, and came out with stellar results.
From the start of the match, Cross showed that she came to play. Arizona’s first point came on a solo block from her. She was responsible for three of Arizona’s first four points.
The ‘Cats opened up a quick lead on the Beavers before OSU was able to close the gap at 7-7 in the first. From there, Arizona put their foot on the gas, and was not threatened again. The set ended on a kill from Whipple.
The Wildcats were even more dominant in the second set. Oregon State didn’t even reach double digits until Arizona had already scored 20 points. Whipple again had a hand in helping her team put the final point on the board when she and Shardonee Hayes collaborated to block OSU’s Maddy Gravely.
The Beavers made their final stand at the beginning of the third set. They came out with much more energy, and had some success for the first several minutes. After the first 10 points, when the set stood at 5-5, Arizona pulled away.
With a seven-point deficit and facing a string of match points, Oregon State tried to stave off what seemed inevitable. They saved five match points before a kill from Cross ended the match.
The Wildcats finally return to McKale Center next week to face the Washington schools. The No. 13 Huskies and No. 22 Cougars will be the third and fourth top-25 opponents Arizona has faced since conference play began. The Wildcats are 1-1 against ranked teams so far this season.