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Arizona volleyball dominated by Stanford in first Pac-12 loss

Photo by Madison Farwell/Arizona Athletics

Arizona volleyball had not been swept by anyone this year, not even by No. 1 Texas. Entering Sunday’s match, the Wildcats were one of two Pac-12 teams to be undefeated in conference play. The No. 17 Stanford Cardinal had something to say about that in a dominating 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-16) victory.

Arizona head coach Dave Rubio noted last Wednesday that, while Stanford is young, they are extremely talented.

“Sometimes talent overcomes a lot of problems,” he said in his weekly press conference. “We’re not big and talented like that. We’re talented, but we don’t have the size.”

That size seemed to bother Arizona, which had a difficult time finding the floor. Stanford had nine blocks in the match while the Wildcats hit just .122 as a team. Arizona had 20 attack errors and just 30 kills.

Errors were a problem in other parts of the game, too. Rubio told the Pac-12 Network that the team needed to clean up the service errors. They weren’t able to do that as they committed eight errors on serve against three aces.

Arizona struggled on the block, too. The team finished with five total blocks but also had four blocking errors.

None of the Wildcats had double-digit kills. The closest was freshman opposite Puk Stubbe who finished with nine. It was the second straight nine-kill match for Stubbe, who had a strong outing against California on Friday. After the match in Berkeley, Rubio said that they really needed to get Stubbe at least 30 attempts per match, but she once again ended up with 21.

On Sunday, Stubbe had the highest hitting percentage of the pin hitters at .238. That just outpaced Sofia Maldonado Diaz at .231. Stubbe also had an assist, three digs, and one total block. That was good for a team-high 9.5 points.

Maldonado Diaz finished with six kills, an assist, an ace, a dig, and one total block. She was second on the team with 7.5 points.

Stanford dominated from the start. The Wildcats could not string points together in the opening set. They had back-to-back points only four times all set, and they never put more than two points in a row together. Meanwhile, the Cardinal had eight scoring runs of up to five points each.

It looked like the Wildcats had their feet under them in the first half of the second set. Part of that was improved play by Arizona and part of it was Stanford falling off a bit. The Cardinal had four attack errors and three service errors in set two. In the other two sets, they had just one attack error and one error on serve in each.

Stanford opened with two straight points, but Arizona responded with back-to-back points to tie it up. At 4-3 in the second, the Wildcats took their first lead of the match. The two teams traded points until 14-14 in the set, and Stanford took the 15-14 lead into the media timeout.

Coming out of the media timeout, the Cardinal took over. The Wildcats scored just four points after the break as Stanford easily took the two-set lead.

After taking the 1-0 lead in the third set, little went right for Arizona. Stanford marched to a 16-6 lead. At that point, Rubio started subbing in his freshmen. Freshmen middle blockers Alayna Johnson and Nicole Briggs both entered the game for the first time in conference play.

The Wildcats got some life after the substitutions. After falling behind 18-6, they ran off six straight points. Stubbe and Briggs each got a kill, then they teamed up for a block to close the Stanford lead to 18-12. It forced the first Cardinal timeout of the match.

That was the last gasp for the Wildcats. Stanford closed things out on a 7-4 run to make an easy day of it.

Arizona fell to 11-4 on the season and 3-1 in Pac-12 play. With Oregon losing to Utah earlier in the day, the Wildcats became the final Pac-12 team to lose a conference match.

Arizona returns home to host Washington and Washington State next week.