It was a straight-set victory, but it was not the easiest match as Arizona volleyball defeated California (25-18, 26-24, 25-23). Once again, inconsistency haunted the young Wildcats as they rushed out to big leads, then let the Golden Bears back into the final two sets.
As has been the case for Arizona for most of the season, a combination of Sofia Maldonado Diaz and one of the middle blockers stood out on offense. In this case, it was Merle Weidt who once again displayed offensive prowess from the middle.
Both Maldonado Diaz and Weidt ended with 11 kills. Maldonado Diaz did it on .152 hitting while Weidt hit .500. Maldonado Diaz also had four service aces, including the one that ended set two, and a team-high 15 points. Weidt added one block to her stats for 11.5 points.
The Wildcats got help from Paige Whipple and Jaelyn Hodge, as well. Whipple had nine kills and 14 digs to go along with two assists. Hodge contributed seven kills, four digs and two blocks.
In their victory on Friday evening, the Wildcats relied on blocking and serving to win a match where they were not very efficient. On Sunday afternoon, they improved the efficiency a bit to .198 hitting, but they still relied heavily on the serve. The team had seven aces as a group.
Neither team seemed especially sharp. There were several long rallies that were lengthened by both sides’ inability to be terminal. The digs were not especially impressive on either side, but they were enough to keep the other side from scoring on their attacks.
Arizona easily handled the first set. Cal had one run of four points and another for three points, but the Wildcats were able to keep them from scoring in bunches for most of the set.
In set two, Arizona built an 18-9 lead. It looked to be over. Then, Cal got back into it.
The Golden Bears went on a 14-5 run to tie the set at 23. Two kills and an ace by Maldonado Diaz eventually ended the set 26-24.
The Wildcats once again showed the inability to close things out in the third set. This time, the big lead was 18-11.
Arizona got to match point at 24-21, but attack errors by Maldonado Diaz and Hodge closed the gap to 24-23.
On the third match point, Hodge was finally able to find the floor and end the match in Arizona’s favor.
The victory moved the Wildcats to .500 on the season at 9-9. The Golden Bears fell to 1-17.
The Wildcats will return to McKale Center next week to face USC in their final home matches of the season.
On Friday, head coach Dave Rubio said he believed that they needed to win out to be in the conversation for an at-large berth in the abbreviated 48-team NCAA Tournament. The first road sweep of the season kept that hope alive.