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Arizona volleyball storms back to defeat Maryland in 5 sets

Fifth-year senior Zyonna Fellows gives the “Wildcat” hand sign before Arizona plays Maryland on Sept. 10, 2022
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

For the second straight day, the Arizona Wildcats needed to come back from a 2-1 deficit. For the second straight day, they were successful as they pulled out the five-set win over Maryland by the score of 25-22, 22-25, 19-25, 25-17, 15-11.

“That was a really kind of a gut-wrenching match in a lot of different aspects, but it was hard-fought by both teams,” Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said. “I thought both teams were pretty evenly matched and on a neutral floor. And, fortunately, we were able to play a little bit better at the end of set four and set five. Set four was kind of the make-or-break time for us. We were down. I called my first time out at 2-0 and then I called the second time out at 5-0 and had a few things to say to the team. And then we just kind of took off from there.”

From that 5-0 point in set four, Arizona went on a 10-4 run to take the lead at 10-9. The Wildcats never trailed again in that set, eventually building a 23-14 lead.

“The person who kind of separated us is...Haven Wray,” Rubio said. “She subbed in and played and served (seven) straight points for us, and that kind of put us in a position to win that set.”

The defensive specialist was even in on a block during the run that took Arizona from a 14-12 lead to a 19-13 advantage.

The Wildcats improved their record to 6-1 on the season and 2-1 in five-set matches. Arizona also had a comeback victory in five sets over Sacramento State on Friday morning.

In addition to the victory over the Hornets on Friday, Arizona dominated San Diego State later in the day. In that game, all three of the Wildcats’ starting pins were extremely efficient.

That did not carry over into Saturday’s match against Maryland. Both Jaelyn Hodge and Sofia Maldonado Diaz had difficulty scoring for much of the match.

“I think that the biggest thing is that (Maryland was) bigger, more physical, and we didn’t pass the ball quite as well,” Rubio said. “Those guys really served the ball well and we were in a two-person serve receive. So for Kamaile (Hiapo), Madison Ellman, and Haven, it was a long day for those guys who had to cover so much court. We were managing as best as we could and oftentimes both Jaelyn and Sofia were attacking into a solid double block.”

Both Hodge and Maldonado Diaz ended with hitting percentages below .150. Hodge was able to regain some of her effectiveness in the fifth set and ended with 15 kills on .146 hitting, but Maldonado Diaz had difficulties with the Maryland defense all day. She ended with just six kills to go along with four errors and hit just .069.

With the double block focusing on the left side, Arizona was able to find offense in the middle and on the right side. Zyonna Fellows once again showed that she’s a much more offensively-minded player in her fifth year—and she can still block, too. She ended the day with 12 kills on 23 swings. She had just one error, giving her a hitting percentage of .478. She also had seven total blocks.

“If you’re gonna win those kinds of matches, your older upperclassmen have to step up,” Rubio said. “And Zyonna, since we started the season, has been just so good on the leadership—off the court and on the court—but she still has the numbers blocking and attacking. She was fantastic today.”

Just as vital was Puk Stubbe. The sophomore had 20 kills and four errors on 47 swings for a .340 hitting percentage. Her 14 digs gave her a double-double. She also had three assists, a service ace, and four total blocks. Her 23.0 points led the match.

“Fortunately, Puk had an amazing day,” Rubio said. “Probably the best day of her career was today. She really carried us offensively, as well.”

Emery Herman had five kills, 45 assists, 11 digs and six total blocks. The junior setter contributed eight points.

Backup setter Ana Heath continued her hot serving streak after struggling a little with it last weekend at North Carolina. The freshman entered with the match tied at 8-all in the first set. She served four straight points, including two aces, to give the Wildcats an 11-9 lead. Heath ended the day with four aces.

As soon as the match was over at about 2:30 p.m. MST, the Wildcats were ready to get on the bus and get back to Tucson, perhaps hoping they could get home in time to see some of the Arizona vs Mississippi State football game that starts at 8 p.m.

“Hopefully the ‘Cats win today,” Rubio said.