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Freshmen shine again, but Arizona volleyball gets swept by No. 10 Utah

Freshman Emery Herman sets the ball as sophomore Kamaile Hiapo (left) and freshman Jaelyn Hodge (right) look on
Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Before they headed to Salt Lake City, Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio said that if the Wildcats didn’t have at least a 90 percent swing percentage, it would be “lights out for the Cats quickly.”

Just like on Friday night, Sunday’s match against No. 10 Utah was, indeed, lights out for the Cats quickly.

The Utes took the match in straight sets (25-13, 25-13, 25-16) to complete the weekend sweep. After the first set, Utah was hitting .600 while Arizona was hitting under .200. The match continued in that vein until its inevitable conclusion.

Once again, it was the freshmen doing much of the heavy lifting for the Wildcats. Jaelyn Hodge led Arizona with six kills on 15 attempts. With four errors, that left her with a .133 hitting percentage. She added four digs and one assisted block for 6.5 points.

Sofia Maldonado Diaz showed her promise for the second straight match. The freshman from Mexico had to get over several challenges to start her collegiate career, but she still put together a strong campaign in her first two matches.

On Sunday, it was five kills on .176 hitting to go along with four digs and an assisted block. The end result for Maldonado was 5.5 points.

Senior hitter Paige Whipple led the team in points with seven. She amassed that by way of five kills and two service aces, while also adding two digs. On the down side, she hit -.043 and had one blocking error. It took her 23 attempts to get her five kills and she added six attack errors.

Freshman middle blocker China Rai Crouch led the team with two blocks. Fellow freshman Emery Herman led in assists with 12. Herman also led in digs with eight and added a service ace on the day.

There wasn’t a single statistical category that didn’t show Utah dominance. The Utes had 40 kills to just 25 for the Wildcats. They played an extremely clean match with just eight attack errors compared to 16 for the visitors. They ended the match hitting .368 as a team, while Arizona hit .106.

On the serve, Utah had nine aces. Arizona had four. When they served, they won 60.3 percent of the points. When the Wildcats served, the Utes won 70.5 percent of those points.

The first two sets proceeded almost exactly the same as the Wildcats had a rough start to the day. Things were close until the 12th point of the set, then Utah pulled away.

In the first set, it went from six-all to 16-8 in Utah’s favor. The Wildcats won just five more points in the set before the Utes took the 1-0 lead with a 25-13 win.

In the second set, the Utes led 7-5 when they went on a 13-5 run to double up the Wildcats at 20-10. Once again, it was a 25-13 set.

Arizona was able to get a few things going in the final set and Utah had a few more difficulties, but it was still a dominant performance by the Utes. The Wildcats were able to keep it closer longer, getting within two points at 14-12.

From there, it was an 11-4 run for Utah to put away the win. The final kill came from Utah’s Zoe Weatherington, the cousin of former Arizona middle blocker Devyn Cross.

The Wildcats will be in action again on Friday, Jan. 29. Their home opener comes against currently-No. 8 Washington. The Huskies had a bumpy start to their season, getting swept by unranked Arizona State on Friday before taking the 3-1 win over the Sun Devils on Saturday.