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Poor serve receive dooms Arizona volleyball against USC

Sofia Maldonado Diaz and Kamaile Hiapo
Photo by Catherine Regan / Arizona Athletics

At No. 88 in RPI, a win over No. 70 USC wasn’t going to be a huge help in Arizona volleyball’s quest to get to the postseason. A loss was probably the end of any hope, though. The Women of Troy handed the Wildcats that loss with little trouble on Friday night in a 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-11) match.

“Just an old-fashioned butt-kickin',” Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said.

It wasn’t what he expected. Rubio said that the team had a good week of practice. When the time came, though, the Women of Troy controlled the match through aggressive serving and the offensive power of Brooke Botkin. The super senior had 13 kills on 22 swings with zero errors, hitting .591.

Botkin wasn’t alone. As a team, USC had 40 kills to just 19 by Arizona while committing just 10 attack errors to 17 by the Wildcats. The Women of Troy hit .366 for the match.

It all came back to Arizona’s struggles on serve receive.

“Passing breaks down,” Rubio said. “We could never get into a rhythm, so, no, just not very good.”

In the first set, freshman setter Mia Tuaniga went on a 10-point service run that put the Wildcats away early. When she stepped to the service line, the two teams were tied at five points apiece. When Arizona finally put an end to her serve, USC led 15-5. The Wildcats never recovered.

“If you can’t pass and side out then just all other aspects and phases of the game become difficult to manage,” Rubio said. “And you’re just giving up so many points in a row and a team like us—we’re young and we’re inexperienced—I think emotionally get down pretty quickly. USC just kept applying the pressure.”

Arizona was led by Sofia Maldonado Diaz with eight kills. She was one of only four players to score a kill for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats move on to play No. 13 UCLA on Sunday before facing No. 16 Oregon on Tuesday. There are still things to learn regardless of how they turn out.

“I think these next couple of matches are really going to be a good challenge for us,” Rubio said.