After what might have been their worst showing of the season against USC on Friday night, it was difficult to know how Arizona volleyball would emerge on Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats came out against No. 13 UCLA looking like a completely different team than the one that couldn’t compete with USC.
“We’ll watch some film, get some rest, and see if we can recover,” head coach Dave Rubio said after the USC match.
Arizona did recover, but it just wasn’t enough against the No. 13 team in the country. UCLA handed the Wildcats their 14th defeat of the season in a 3-0 (25-22, 25-14, 26-24) match.
For one of the few times this season, Jaelyn Hodge, Puk Stubbe, and Sofia Maldonado Diaz were efficient in the same match. As a team, the Wildcats hit a season-high .352.
Arizona was led by Hodge with 14 kills on .379 hitting. It was her best hitting percentage of the season and just the second time this year that she had hit over .300.
Maldonado Diaz had 8 kills on .533 hitting. The sophomore didn’t commit an attack error all match.
Stubbe matched Maldonado Diaz with zero hitting errors. The freshman had six kills in 10 swings.
The Wildcats won the blocking game with 10 total blocks against zero for the Bruins. Senior Zyonna Fellows had five, including one solo block. Stubbe and Merle Weidt each had four total blocks with Weidt getting one solo.
The Bruins dominated on serve, and they had former Pac-12 Player of the Year Mac May on their side of the net. That ended up making all the difference.
UCLA had 14 aces against 7 service errors in the match, while Arizona had 12 errors and just 3 aces to offset them. Although they were very efficient on the attack, Maldonado Diaz and Hodge had problems on serve, committing three service errors each.
May was responsible for eight of the Bruins’ aces. She also led the match with 13 kills on .417 hitting.
Despite not blocking the ball, the Bruins were tough on defense, turning away the Wildcats time and again. The home team had 29 digs to 20 for Arizona.
Arizona scored the first point of the match and went up 9-6 early without ever trailing. The Bruins found their legs and went on a 4-0 run to take the lead. After having a miserable time siding out against USC, the Wildcats kept UCLA from going on big runs by siding out 54.1 percent of the time over the course of the match.
Still, the Bruins built their biggest lead of the opening set at 24-19. The Wildcats fought back, saving three set points before UCLA finally went up a set with the 25-22 victory.
Early in the second set, Arizona looked like they were going to make it another close one. UCLA had other ideas and started to pull away at 8-7. A 7-2 run by the Bruins put them up by six, and the Wildcats never recovered.
Arizona wasn’t ready to relinquish the match just because they were down 0-2. The two teams exchanged leads in the third set until UCLA went up 16-14. The Wildcats went on their biggest scoring run of the day, taking five straight points to grab a 19-16 lead.
At 24-21, Arizona stood on the verge of pushing the match to a fourth set. A five-point run, punctuated by May’s final ace, put an end to that.
Things don’t get much easier for the Wildcats. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, they have to continue on to Eugene to play No. 16 Oregon on Tuesday, then return home to close the season with ASU on Saturday.