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Sofia Maldonado Diaz dazzles in debut, but Arizona volleyball falls to No. 10 Utah in season opener

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Dilara Gedikoglu led the Wildcats with 9 kills against Utah.
Courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Opening night in Pac-12 volleyball was full of surprises. Arizona State upset No. 8 Washington in straight sets. California gave No. 22 UCLA a run for the money. Could Arizona shock Utah, the preseason favorite?

That was too big of an ask, as the Utes downed the Wildcats in straight sets (25-23, 25-16, 25-15) in Salt Lake City.

There was one surprise, though.

Freshman Sofia Maldonado Diaz, who had difficulty getting into the U.S. then tested positive for COVID-19, made her debut early in the opening set. The Mexican national teamer made quite the impression, amassing eight points in her first collegiate match despite hardly practicing leading up to it.

Tulsa transfer Dilara Gedikoglu barely missed a double-double in her Arizona debut, leading the Wildcats with 9 kills, 10 digs, an assist and a service ace. The downside was that she had just a .174 hitting percentage.

Maldonado was second for the Wildcats with 5 kills, an assist, 2 aces, 2 digs and 2 assisted blocks. Like all of the Wildcats’ hitters, Maldonado struggled with hitting percentage, putting up a line of .083. Star hitter Paige Whipple had just four kills on 25 swings.

Senior setter Akia Warrior led in assists with 12 while Zyonna Fellows led the team with three blocks.

The opening set was a tight, back-and-forth affair. The largest lead was four when Utah went ahead 19-15. Arizona went on a run to tie it at 21 apiece, but the Utes took the set 25-23.

The second set was more routine for Utah. They controlled the set, closing it out 25-16.

It was more of the same in the third. The Wildcats kept it within two points until 10-8 in the Utes’ favor. Utah steadily pulled away, building a 20-11 lead. Arizona fought back with a 4-1 run to close it to 21-15, but that would be it for the Wildcats as the Utes took the final set 25-15.

The two teams will play again on Sunday afternoon at 12 p.m. MST.