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Arizona volleyball falls to USC in close 4-setter

The Wildcats have a better effort against the Women of Troy than they did against the Sun Devils, but it ends with the same result.

COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL: OCT 06 USC at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Thursday night, the Arizona Wildcats only reached 20 points in one set against ASU. Afterwards, head coach Dave Rubio said that they needed to do some soul-searching. Apparently, that happened, because the Wildcats were able to break that streak of futility against USC.

It wasn’t enough to keep them from falling to 0-2 in Pac-12 play, though. The Women of Troy took the Saturdy night match against the Wildcats by a score of 3-1 (25-21, 14-25, 25-22, 25-22).

The stats told the story of a hard-fought contest. USC outhit Arizona .231 to .213. The Wildcats led in assists 48-44. Both teams had 4 aces, while Arizona had 11 service errors to 12 by USC. Digs went 56-53 in the Wildcats’ favor, while USC won the battle on the block 22-15 and both teams had 4 blocking errors. The Wildcats put up 66 points to USC’s 65.

In the end, the Women of Troy won the big points in the three close sets, though. The Wildcats racked up a lot of stats in an uncompetitive set two, and had an uninspiring fourth set that kept them from getting to the crucial 15-point fifth.

Devyn Cross led the Wildcats’ offense with 15 kills on .522 hitting. The middle blocker also had 3 blocks—two of them solo—and led the team with 17.5 points.

Paige Whipple also cracked double digits in kills with 12, but only hit .171. She added a block, an ace and 7 digs, notching 13.5 points on the night.

Elizabeth Shelton had a night that moved USC’s commentary crew to ask why she wasn’t being used more. The redshirt junior had 9 kills on a .368 hitting percentage. She threw in an assisted block for 9.5 points.

Julia Patterson went for yet another double-double with 43 assists and 10 digs. Three blocks (2 solo, 1 assist) and 2 kills gave her 4.5 points for the match.

Freshman libero Kamaile Hiapo had 15 digs on 24 receptions with only 1 reception error, but she also left the match with an apparent injury. In the fourth set, HIapo attempted to dig a ball from Khalia Lanier and ended up grabbing the back of her leg. She did not return.

Information about the nature and seriousness of Hiapo’s injury were not immediately available. With senior libero Makenna Martin still recovering from her own leg injury, the Wildcats may be looking to Emi Pua’a next week.

The first set was tight until 9-9, then the Women of Troy started to pull away. A 4-0 run allowed USC some breathing room which it never relinquished.

USC had its largest lead at 22-16, but Arizona fought to get back in the set. The Wildcats were able to shave off three points of the lead, but couldn’t entirely climb out of the hole they had dug for themselves. After staving off one set point, Arizona couldn’t overcome the second one.

From a statistical point of view, it was a tight set. Both teams hit over .300 with Arizona going for .324 and USC hitting .406. The Women of Troy had a 17-15 advantage in kills. Arizona led in blocks 2-1, and USC had the only ace in the set.

The second set was no contest. It was all Arizona from the first serve.

After hitting over .400 in the first set, USC bottomed out in the second. The Women of Troy’s hitting for the match had dropped to .188 by the time the Wildcats had tied it up at a set apiece. For the set, Arizona hit .333 and USC had a .000 percentage.

The Women of Troy were done in by their errors in set two. They had as many hitting errors (10) as they had kills. Meanwhile, the Wildcats outpaced their own errors by 10, notching 13 kills to just 3 errors in the set. Arizona also outdid USC on the block, putting up 5 blocks to just 1 by the opponent.

USC came back in a tight third set. The Women of Troy were able to gain a one-point lead several times, but couldn’t extend it beyond that until they went up 11-9. The Wildcats came back to take the lead at 16-15, but couldn’t maintain it. There would be two more ties, but Arizona couldn’t get its nose in front, and USC took the set 25-22.

At the beginning of the fourth, it looked like Arizona was going to do what they did in the second set. The Wildcats rushed out to a 6-2 lead before USC coach Brent Crouch was forced to call a timeout.

Arizona extended the lead to 7-2 after the break, but USC was finally able to get things together. A 7-0 run gave the Women of Troy a 9-7 lead.

Errors were a problem for Arizona against ASU on Thursday night, and they cropped up again in sets three and four against USC. After only committing a total of 7 attack errors in the first two sets, the Wildcats had 7 in the third set and 8 in the fourth.

Four Arizona attack errors in a row allowed USC to tie the fourth set at 7-7. Two more kept the Wildcats from tying things up later in the set.

Arizona was able to tie it up at 10 and again at 11, but USC never fell behind. The Women of Troy built their lead to 5 points on two occasions, the final one at 23-18. Arizona was able to score three straight to make it a two-point game, but USC closed it out with a 2-1 advantage down the stretch.

The Wildcats fall to 10-4 on the season and 0-2 in Pac-12 play, while the Women of Troy improve to 7-5 and 1-1 in conference. Arizona will try to break their two-match losing streak when they host Utah and Colorado next week at McKale Center. Matches will be at 6 p.m. MST on Friday, Oct. 4 and 12 p.m. MST on Sunday, Oct. 6.