Arizona head coach Dave Rubio believed that his team had a chance to go to the NCAA Tournament if they could get to 18 wins. At 14-14 and with only four matches left, there was no margin for error when the Wildcats (14-15, 4-13) faced the No. 10 Washington Huskies (22-6, 13-4) on Friday evening.
That slight opening was closed as Washington outlasted Wildcats three sets to one (24-16, 25-21, 25-13, 25-13).
Setter Julia Patterson had another outstanding match, ending just shy of a triple-double with nine kills, 31 assists and 12 digs. She hit .400 for the match.
“I thought Julia did a terrific job tonight kind of keeping pace with the scoring,” Rubio said. “And she really was a threat to score and scored a lot for us, and that was great. And we need her to do that for us to beat a good team like Washington.”
Paige Whipple led the Wildcats with 18 kills, trailing only Washington’s Kara Bajema’s 22 in the match. Whipple also had 11 digs and one block.
The only other Wildcat in double digits for kills was Katie Smoot who ended the night with 11.
The first set was hard fought, the largest lead being the Huskies’ three-point advantage at 15-12 and again at 22-19. From that final deficit, the Wildcats put together a 5-0 run to get two set points, but Washington was able to fight both of them off.
It wasn’t enough for the visitors, though. Arizona took the final two points to take the 1-0 lead by the score of 26-24.
Set two unfolded much like the first. This time, Arizona faced a four-point Washington lead at 21-17. The Wildcats were able to cut it to one point with a 3-0 run, but couldn’t repeat the magic of the previous set. The Huskies tied it up at a set apiece by outscoring the home team 3-1.
“I think we still felt really confident in the second set,” Whipple said. “It was close and we were in it the entire time, and I think we felt good about going into the third set. We were like, ‘Hey, the scores equal now, back to 0-0. So it’s time to go again’.”
But the final two sets went much differently.
“I thought that we had them out of sorts the first couple sets,” Rubio said. “They were struggling a little bit, but they made some nice adjustments. And their serving at the end of the last two sets really made the difference for us, and we just couldn’t handle their serves in our first contact and it really became hard for us to sideout.”
That inability to sideout caused the third set to get away from Arizona quickly. At 5-5, the Wildcats seemed to stall.
The Huskies didn’t stall.
Washington reached 20 before Arizona reached 10. For Arizona, the only one who could score with any regularity was Patterson, who had four of the team’s seven kills in the set. The Wildcats staved off three set points, but the visitors took the 2-1 lead with a 25-13 victory.
The final set followed a similar path. Arizona’s lack of depth became more apparent. The Huskies’ skill did, too, as they closed it out 25-13.
Arizona next faces Washington State on Sunday at 12 p.m. MST.