It was fitting that Makenna Martin stood at the service line as the Arizona Wildcats (13-15, 3-12) reached match point against Oregon (7-17, 3-12). Martin sat out the first 23 matches of her senior season with a hamstring injury. On Friday, her ability to serve aggressively and accurately was key in leading her team to a three-set victory (25-20, 27-25, 25-21).
For the past ten matches, freshman Kamaile Hiapo has been serving as an outside hitter due to the plethora of concussions suffered by the Arizona bigs. To avoid taking themselves out of matches with service errors, coach Dave Rubio had also changed tactics. His team went almost exclusively to short serves to avoid erroring themselves out of matches.
On Friday night, it was Martin—a slightly taller former libero—who stepped into that role while Hiapo returned to her defensive duties. More aggressive serving joined her, but service errors didn’t as Martin served 21 times with two aces and only one error.
Martin made her debut on Nov. 3 against Utah. For the past three matches, she has played as a serving specialist. While she was inserted into Friday’s starting line-up as an outside hitter, she still made a huge mark at the service line.
Setter Julia Patterson usually serves first for Arizona, Martin took on that role, as well. The results proved that it was the right call.
With the Wildcats trailing 11-12 in the first set, Martin stepped to the line and reeled off four straight serves to give Arizona a 14-12 lead. Oregon called time to try to break the momentum, but it didn’t work.
Martin served two more times before the Ducks were able to get the side out on a Ronika Stone kill. By that time, the Wildcats were up 16-13, and they wouldn’t look back.
On set point, it was Hiapo serving, but Martin still played a crucial role. It was the senior who assisted Paige Whipple on the kill that put the Wildcats up 1-0.
The second set didn’t start well for Arizona. From the 4-4 tie, Oregon went on an 8-5 run to put themselves up 12-8. Again, it was Martin who stepped to the line.
Four straight points on Martin’s serve—including an ace—tied the game up at 12. Again, the Ducks hoped a timeout would stop the bleeding. Again, it failed to do so.
Arizona ran off two more points behind the serving of Martin. Again, a Stone kill got the sideout on her seventh straight serve.
From there, the teams fought back and forth to get the second set. Oregon reached set point first at 24-22, but the Wildcats weren’t ready to give in. The Ducks weren’t either for that matter.
On set point, the two teams traded amazing digs and athletic attacks. There were 39 contacts of the ball as it went back and forth over the net. Then, it was over. The Wildcats turned the Ducks back on a kill from Whipple.
At 23-24, Arizona saved a second set point. An attack error by Brooke Nuneviller finally gave the Wildcats the opportunity to go up 2-0, and they didn’t waste any time. An ace from Hiapo put the visitors one set away from a victory.
Oregon didn’t go away easily. They used a 6-0 run to go up 10-6. Emi Pua’a stepped in to serve. Like her teammate, she used a strong serve to help her team run off five straight points to take the lead again.
Pua’a would again use a steady serve to help the Wildcats put together a 4-0 run to put them up 22-19.
At 24-21, Martin stepped to the line again. An attack by Devyn Cross found the floor, and it was all over.
Whipple led the match with 18 kills on 51 swings and a .235 hitting percentage. She was joined in double digits by Cross who had 10 kills on .769 hitting.
Both Martin and Pua’a had two aces. Martin added three kills, an assist, a block and 10 digs for the night. Pua’a had two assists and four digs to add to her stats.
Patterson had five kills on .556 hitting. She added 33 assists, six digs and a block.
The Wildcats will return to action against Oregon State on Sunday. That match tips off at 10 a.m. MST and will stream on Oregon State Live Stream.