In a match that likely put a nail in the coffin of Arizona volleyball’s NCAA tournament hopes, the Wildcats (12-11, 2-9) fell to Colorado (9-12, 1-10) in five sets (21-25, 18-25, 25-23, 25-22, 11-15). It was the Buffaloes’ first win since Sept. 21 when they beat Campbell.
Despite superb individual performances by senior middle blocker Devyn Cross and junior outside hitter Paige Whipple, the Wildcats couldn’t overcome slow starts that plagued them most of the night.
Arizona fell behind by scores of 0-5, 6-10, and 2-7 in the three sets they lost. They even had to come back from deficits of 5-10 and 20-23 to win the third set and extend the match. It was not a recipe for success.
Whipple set a season high with 22 kills, just two shy of her career mark of 24 set back in 2017. She was fairly efficient, especially considering the Wildcats’ injury situation, with a .246 hitting percentage. The offensive leader for Arizona also had 11 digs for a double-double.
Cross also had an impressive double-double with 13 kills on .333 hitting and 10 total blocks. She only had two digs, but they came at crucial times and required impressive athleticism. The 10 blocks and 20 points were both career highs for the 2018 AVCA All-American honorable mention.
Whipple tied with Colorado’s Elissa Alcantara for the match-high in kills, while Cross was the match leader in blocks. Whipple and Cross were second and third in points behind Alcantara.
Katie Smoot also reached double digits in kills for the Wildcats with 14 and had one block. Julia Patterson had 47 assists and 11 digs to go along with 5 blocks and 6 kills.
Arizona struggled out of the gate, allowing Colorado to build an early 5-0 lead. The Wildcats tied it up at 6-all, but they couldn’t take control.
The Buffaloes built another five-point lead at 12-7, only to have the Wildcats again come back and tie it at 17. The two teams traded points until 21-21, then the hosts put together four straight to take the 1-0 lead.
When the second set reached 10-6 in Colorado’s favor, it looked like it just might not be Arizona’s night. The Buffs more than doubled that lead, eventually building it to 23-13.
A 5-1 Wildcat streak made the set more respectable, but Colorado was never really bothered on their way to a 2-0 lead.
The Buffaloes were swept when they visited Tucson in early October. They were on their way to returning the favor when they reached 11-5 is set three. Arizona just wasn’t ready to let go.
A 9-3 run by the Wildcats tied the set at 14. It was a back-and-forth affair until the Buffaloes put together their own run and pushed the lead back out to 23-20.
They wouldn’t score again in the set. Arizona used their own 5-0 stretch to take the third set and keep its hopes alive.
The fourth was a tight set throughout. Neither team could gain separation, and the largest lead was three in favor of Arizona. That would also be their winning margin to force the final set.
Colorado took control of the fifth right out of the gates. When they reached 7-2, Arizona didn’t have much hope left. The Buffs were almost halfway to the deciding 15 points; the Wildcats were still back at the starting line.
Arizona was able to make another push and eventually close the Colorado lead to 13-11. It just wasn’t enough in the shortened set. The Buffaloes took the final two points to earn their first Pac-12 win of the season.
The Wildcats will wrap up the road trip at No. 17 Utah. That match will be played at 12 p.m. MST on Sunday. It will air on the Pac-12 Networks.