TEMPE—After a tough year, Arizona volleyball was able to experience the joy of a rivalry win that sent its seniors out on a high note. The Wildcats engineered a reverse sweep (23-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 15-11) of Arizona State to end the season 16-15 overall and 6-14 in the Pac-12.
“They continue to fight to be the team that we’ve always dreamed of being,” said head coach Dave Rubio. “And even up until the last 10 minutes before the game when we went to warm up, I was lecturing them about the energy and the body language and fighting. It was just an amazing finish.”
Arizona got a huge night from fifth-year senior Zyonna Fellows in her last game in a Wildcat uniform. Despite extreme back pain, she fought through five sets to end with a double-double. She had 10 kills on .529 hitting and 13 total blocks (2 solo, 11 assisted). Her hitting percentage and blocks led the match while her 17.5 points were second on the team and third in the match.
“She was really hurt, but she hung in there” Rubio said. “In the fifth game, I said, ‘Hang in there for five points.’ She said, ‘Dave, I got this. Not a problem.’”
It was also a strong night for Arizona’s two other seniors, Kamaile Hiapo and Dilara Gedikoglu. Hiapo had one of the Wildcats’ four double-doubles with 11 assists and 18 digs. Gedikoglu finished her last game with the indoor team with six points on five kills and a service ace. She also had an assist and five digs.
“For the seniors, for Zyonna, Kamaile, and Dilara, they played their hearts out,” Rubio said.
Juniors Emery Herman and Sofia Maldonado Diaz had the Wildcats’ other two double-doubles. Herman had 45 assists, 19 digs, and 6 total blocks. Maldonado Diaz led the team with 26.5 points. She had 20 kills, an assist, four aces, 11 digs, and five total blocks.
After having their senior day spoiled by Colorado, it didn’t look like Arizona’s seniors were going to get their storybook ending in Desert Financial Arena. Iman Isanovic and Marta Levinska came out strong for ASU. The Sun Devils led by as many as six points early in the opening set.
Arizona finally closed the gap late and tied it at 21, but the Wildcats could never take a lead. They saved two sets points, but they couldn’t save the third one.
The second set was close early on. Arizona had an early lead at 10-8, but the Sun Devils took off from there. They went on an 8-1 run to take a 16-11 lead. The Wildcats finally put together their own run, using an 8-3 stretch to pull within a point at 21-20. From there, all they could do was trade points as the Sun Devils went up 2-0.
The last time ASU swept UA was 2019. It was a year full of injuries for the Wildcats, a year in which players were forced to play out of position simply because no one else was available. The Sun Devils had a run of four wins in 2006 and 2007, but you had to go back to 1995 to find a time when Arizona lost a series of games before that. Since 1996, the series has been lopsided in the Wildcats’ favor.
This wasn’t the year Arizona was going to start losing that advantage, even if they didn’t have the year they wanted overall.
The third set was a back-and-forth affair until the Sun Devils took the 9-8 lead. Arizona outscored ASU 8-3 from there to go up 16-12. ASU tied it at 19, but the Wildcats outscored the Sun Devils 6-4 from there to keep their hopes alive.
Arizona carried that momentum into the fourth set, building a 10-4 lead. The Wildcats eventually had a lead of 10 at 19-9, but they had difficulty putting the set away. The Sun Devils managed to cut that lead to four points at 23-19, but Arizona pushed it to five sets by winning the final two points.
Arizona never trailed in the final set. ASU was able to tie it at 11 after trailing 11-7, but Arizonoa scored the final four points of the match to secure the reverse sweep.
“I knew we could do it,” Fellows said. “I was in a lot of pain, but every time I went on the court, Jaleesa (Caroccio) was telling me, ‘We got your back.’”
Both Fellows and Rubio were pleased that it was a competitive, entertaining match that ended their way.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way than a reverse sweep against ASU,” Fellows said. “Congrats to them and their seniors, but these past five years have just been amazing. Words can’t really explain it, honestly.”