Serving and passing were once again the downfalls of Arizona volleyball. Colorado came to town for an oddly timed 1 p.m. Wednesday match the day before Thanksgiving and left town with a win by the score of 3-1 (25-19, 24-26, 25-22, 25-17).
“I thought those guys did a nice job of blocking,” Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said. “Even then, we had our moments. It really still came down to serving and passing. I thought we didn’t serve tough enough. Even though we didn’t miss that many serves, we didn’t serve tough enough...and they were in system too often...It’s frustrating that we couldn’t serve the right people with a little more pace and a little more velocity on the ball.”
Despite the early hour in the middle of a holiday week, over 1450 fans turned out to honor Arizona’s three seniors, middle blocker Zyonna Fellows, outside hitter Dilara Gedikoglu, and libero Kamaile Hiapo. Although there’s a chance that Hiapo could return for her fifth season next year, it was the final home match for Fellows and Gedikoglu.
“I’m very appreciative,” Fellows said. “I took a look and I could see the people who were always at the games, since day one. That’s amazing to see.”
The outcome wasn’t what the team had hoped, but both Fellows and Hiapo had strong games. Fellows had 11 kills, her most against a Pac-12 opponent this season. Her season high was 12 against Maryland. She also had six total blocks, including one solo, to give her 14.5 points. The points total was the second-highest on the team behind Sofia Maldonado Diaz.
“It was amazing,” Fellows aid. “We fought hard and we just didn’t get the outcome we wanted. But overall, I love my team, so I enjoy every moment that I get to play with them.”
Hiapo narrowly missed a double-double with nine assists and 17 digs.
It wasn’t all about the seniors, though. Juniors Emery Herman and Maldonado Diaz both left their marks on the match with double-doubles.
Herman had her 1,000th assist for the season in the second set, making it her second straight year of hitting that mark. She ended the day with 33 assists and 13 digs for the double-double. She also had five kills on .500 hitting without a hitting error and four aces without a service error, giving her nine points for the match.
“Emery is kind of the straw that stirs the drink for us, and the thing that I love about Emery is that she’s really grown in the last three, four weeks of the season,” Rubio said. “Everything about her has been significantly better for me. I’m really proud of her.”
Maldonado Diaz had 15 kills and 11 digs for her double-double. In addition to her kills, she had four aces and four total blocks to give her a team-high 21 points.
The match was uneven with the Buffaloes controlling the first and fourth sets, while the Wildcats battled with them in the second and third. One of the differences in the two middle sets was how many times Rubio chose to sub in an extra defensive specialist while removing one of his pin hitters. That seemed to help the serve receive somewhat, but it also meant taking an attacker off the court.
“We become really one-dimensional,” Rubio said.
The group has one more outing together when they face ASU in Tempe on Saturday at 4 p.m. MST. What do they need to do to finish the season above .500?
“Execute,” Herman said. “Just execute. Do what we know how to do.”