The Arizona Wildcats had both big ups and major downs in their four-set loss to Nebraska on Friday. After two straight losses stretching back to last weekend, they needed to right the ship. On Saturday, they did just that with wins over West Virginia and San Diego State to wrap up the SDSU/USD Invitational.
Arizona Wildcats vs West Virginia Mountaineers
Things got underway early with an 11 a.m. match against the Mountaineers. West Virginia came in undefeated, but they were also untested. A hot start made it look like they might maintain that record. After the first set, Arizona put a quick end to that by winning in four (30-32, 25-14, 25-12, 25-19).
The Wildcats had a strong offensive showing with two players getting double-digit kills. Paige Whipple (19 kills, 16 digs) and Katie Smoot (13 kills, 13 digs) both had double-doubles. The two attackers also had 2 blocks apiece, while Whipple had 2 aces and Smoot had an ace and an assist.
Shardonee Hayes and Elizabeth Shelton weren’t too far from double-figure kill numbers, either. Hayes had 9 kills on .467 hitting to go with 6 blocks. Shelton added 8 kills and 6 blocks of her own.
Setter Julia Patterson also turned in a double-double with 46 assists and 13 digs. Patterson was responsible for 3 kills and 2 blocks.
Senior middle blocker Devyn Cross led all blockers with 9. Freshman libero Kamaile Hiapo added 27 digs to go with 6 assists.
The Wildcats started a little sluggish, allowing the Mountaineers to build a 14-9 lead. Arizona came back to tie things up at 15, and the two teams stayed neck-and-neck for the rest of the set. Both teams wasted set points before WVU was able to string two points together at 30-all for the win.
Arizona responded, and West Virginia struggled to stay in contact for the next two sets. The Wildcats trailed only once—at 0-1 in the third—over the next to sets. They didn’t allow the Mountaineers to reach 15 points in either frame.
The fourth was closer, but the Wildcats never trailed. The Mountaineers tied it up at 19, then didn’t score again in the match.
Arizona had ended their losing streak. The question was whether they could start a new winning streak.
Arizona Wildcats vs San Diego State Aztecs
The Wildcats did, indeed, start that new winning streak. They came back in the evening and made short work of the Aztecs, walking away with a 3-0 victory (25-10, 25-22, 25-19).
Whipple led the way with another double-double. The junior outside hitter had 13 kills on a .480 hitting percentage to go along with 11 digs. Smoot added 12 kills on .360 hitting and 5 digs.
The Aztecs couldn’t have dreamed of a worse start to the match. Arizona went up by five at 10-5. The lead doubled at 16-6. It was a formality from that point.
The home team fought back in the second set. SDSU built an 11-6 lead before Arizona got back into the set and tied it up at 12-12.
Even after surrendering their lead, the Aztecs continued to lead for most of the set. At 18-18, Arizona finally went ahead for good and closed out the set on an 7-4 run. The lead was now 2-0.
Arizona never trailed in the final set, although they let SDSU hang around for a while. The Aztecs tied the score at 8-all, but the Wildcats responded.
Arizona built their lead to 7 points at 22-15. SDSU scored three straight to close the gap, but couldn’t overcome the deficit. The Wildcats scored three of the final four points to end the match and move to 4-2 on the season.
Arizona returns to action in the Kansas Invitational next weekend. They face Kansas on Friday afternoon, then battle Morehead State and Syracuse on Saturday.