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Arizona volleyball completes first season sweep of Stanford since 2005

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Jaelyn Hodge attacks
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

As Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio suggested on Friday, the Stanford team Arizona faced on Sunday was a bit more prepared after getting one match under their belt.

But it wasn’t enough, as Arizona closed out its first sweep of the Cardinal since 2005 with a three sets to one victory (27-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-13).

“I’ll never not be happy about beating Stanford, especially twice,” Rubio said. “But it’s an unusual year for everybody and then certainly for them with the lack of practice time and the players that have been hurt. So, it’s nice to be able to beat those guys, but...for me, just personally for me, it comes with a little bit of an asterisk.”

That’s not to say that Rubio didn’t realize how important this achievement was for his players.

“For our young team, just getting a win and learning to win against, especially a program as storied as Stanford, it’s good,” he said. “And I certainly don’t want to take away from that, either.”

Arizona’s middle blockers came up big in the victory. Junior Zyonna Fellows had 10 kills on 13 attacks without a single error, hitting .769 on the day. She also threw in a dig and three blocks, ending the day with 11.5 points.

“I didn’t realize it until I looked up at the board and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, seven for eight,” Fellows said.

Freshman middle China Rai Crouch added five kills with only one error and hit .444. She had five total blocks, including two solo, and scored 8.5 points. For Crouch, it was especially encouraging since she had been playing the right side for the last several years.

“I will play anywhere my coaches put me,” Crouch said. “Anywhere they asked me. If they want to be bold and put me at libero, I’ll be, ‘alright, let’s try it out.’ But it’s been a while since I played middle before coming into college. But since I started to adjust and get used to it, it is really not a problem. I actually quite enjoy it.”

As a whole, the performance by the middles was an encouraging wrinkle to the offense.

“Rita (Stubbs) was much happier,” Rubio said. “So Rita’s in charge of the coaching the middles, and we had finally had some offense from the middles. And we’ve been working on that. That’s always a work in progress. We’re never happy about the amount of attempts that they get. But I think we have an opportunity to set them more often. I think, Emery (Herman is) feeling more comfortable setting the sets behind what we call the slide. And for us today it was certainly one of the bright spots.”

On the outside, Sofia Maldonado Diaz once again led the Wildcats on offense. She had 15 kills, but it took her 48 attacks and included nine errors. That left her with a .125 hitting percentage. She continued to show her growth in the all-around game, though, with eight digs.

Jaelyn Hodge contributed eight kills on .240 hitting to go along with four digs and two blocks. Paige Whipple added seven kills, 10 digs, an ace and three blocks.

Setter Emery Herman put together a double-double with 34 assists and 15 digs. She added three kills, a service ace and two blocks for five points.

The Wildcats improved to 2-4 on the season, all in Pac-12 play. They will try to keep it going as they travel to Oregon next week.

“As a team, we’re pretty young,” Fellows said. “And I feel like with all the practice that we’ve been doing, we’ve been working hard to work together as a team. And like the Washington match, even though we lost, we still played really hard and we continue to get better.”