Motivation isn’t complicated. Arizona head coach Dave Rubio had no question that his team would be motivated to play the No. 1 Texas Longhorns on Friday night. He had some niggling doubts about how that young group would respond for the second match 16 hours later. As it turned out, there was a good reason for those doubts.
Last week, Rubio said that while Notre Dame’s results had not been what they expected, he believed the Irish would come out and give Arizona a fight. They certainly fought back when the Wildcats gained the advantage.
After taking the first set against a fresh Notre Dame team, the Wildcats were unable to maintain the momentum. The Fighting Irish came back to take the 3-2 victory (22-25, 25-16, 25-14, 12-25, 15-10), dropping Arizona to 5-3 on the year.
Senior middle blocker Merle Weidt had a nice game, contributing 11 kills on .455 hitting. She added three total blocks
Arizona was led by Jaelyn Hodge and Sofia Maldonado Diaz with 12 kills each, but neither was as efficient as the Wildcats needed them to be. Maldonado Diaz hit .206 and Hodge was even lower at .073.
The Wildcats came out strong in the first set, taking the lead at 3-2 and never relinquishing it. They continued to pull away and eventually built a 19-11 advantage. Notre Dame cut that lead down to three points with a 5-0 run, but they could not catch Arizona, which hit a cool .387. With the Fighting Irish also throwing in six free points with service errors against just one ace, it looked like the Wildcats might have an easy day of it.
The problem for Arizona was that Notre Dame also hit just above .300 in the opening set and the Irish continued that in the second set. The Wildcats did not.
In the second set, Arizona dropped to .176 hitting as a team while Notre Dame was even more efficient at .314. The Irish also cleaned up their serving, getting four aces and only committing two service errors. The Irish controlled the set.
Serve got even better for Notre Dame in the third and the disparity in attack efficiency continued. The Irish aced the Wildcats six times in set three with only two service errors. On the attack, the Irish cooled off a little with .258 hitting, but the Wildcats sunk even lower to .125. The Irish were even more dominant, taking the set 25-14.
Arizona looked like it had found its way in the fourth set. The team bumped its hitting percentage back up to .289 while the Irish plunged to zero. The Wildcats did that while taking more swings, getting 38 attacks to just 31 for Notre Dame.
Arizona was also the one getting free points off the service with four aces to zero service errors. By the numbers, it looked the Wildcats had control of the match.
Arizona wasn’t able to keep the momentum on their end. The Irish ran out to a 6-2 lead in the fifth set. The Wildcats’ efficiency once again abandoned them, dropping to a .111 hitting percentage to Notre Dame’s .308.
Arizona had one more push in them, tying the score at six points, but Notre Dame immediately took the lead again. The Irish didn’t relinquish it again, finishing the match on a 9-4 run.