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It’s a similar tale for Arizona volleyball in straight-set loss to No. 5 Oregon

Sofia Maldonado Diaz (2) jumps for the ball against USC at McKale Center on Oct. 8, 2023.
Photo by Catherine Regan / Arizona Athletics

After previous matches, Arizona volleyball head coach Rita Stubbs has said that she felt like the only way the Wildcats could have pulled off an upset was by taking it in three sets. Most importantly, they needed to win the first set to have a chance. Once the team suffers disappointment in the opening frame, it has a hard time putting the ship back on course. That was the case against fifth-ranked Oregon in the Ducks’ 3-0 (26-24, 25-8, 25-15) victory over the Wildcats Friday night in Eugene.

Arizona came out hot. Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Wilson had five kills on .714 hitting until almost the end of the first set. Her first hitting error was a painful one, though. It gave Oregon a set point at 25-24.

Oregon did not take a lead until 20-19 in the opening set. Arizona led by as many as five points on several occasions with the last one coming at 16-11. The Wildcats got a set point at 24-23 but couldn’t convert it.

Two points later, the Ducks had their own set point. They did convert it.

The loss was similar to the Wildcats’ second-set loss at Arizona State. In that match, UA led 17-14 after dropping a close first set. ASU closed the set on an 11-4 run to go up 2-0 and essentially put the match to bed. The Wildcats gave up that night according to their coach, dropping the final set 25-15.

Whether they quit or not, the Wildcats experienced a similar situation in Eugene. The close loss in the opening set seemed to take their feet out from under them. In the second set, they hit -.036 as a team. They had just five kills compared to six hitting errors.

The final set was only slightly better. While they reached double-digit points in this one, Arizona again had almost equal kills (10) and hitting errors (9).

No one on the team got more than eight kills. Although she started very strong with five kills in the first set, Wilson had just three in the rest of the match. Jaelyn Hodge and Sofia Maldonado Diaz also had eight kills apiece.

None of the pins had any blocks. The only block by any Arizona player was a solo by Nicole Briggs in the final set. It was offset by a blocking error committed by setter Ana Heath. Meanwhile, the Ducks had eight total blocks and just one blocking error as a team.

The only Wildcat to end with a hitting percentage over .125 was Heath. She had a hitting percentage of .500, but she had just one kill.

Arizona has a chance to double its conference wins when it visits Oregon State on Sunday. The Beavers are just 1-6 in conference play this season. There are two problems for the Wildcats.

The first one is that the Beavs’ single victory is a big one. While Arizona was getting swept by Oregon, OSU was beating No. 19 ASU 3-2 (20-25, 25-23, 25-18, 13-25, 15-11). The second issue is that UA had a similar opportunity two weeks ago in at California.

The Golden Bears had no Pac-12 victories and were beatable, although they were playing at home. Arizona went into Haas Pavilion and jumped out to a big lead before collapsing down the stretch. As has been common this season, the Wildcats never recovered and lost the match.

In those situations, they get into crisis mode according to Arizona head coach Rita Stubbs.

“It’s no longer about how to win, but it’s about talking players off the ledge,” Stubbs said.

Arizona’s match against Oregon State will air on Pac-12 Arizona at 12 p.m. MST on Sunday, Oct. 15.