For three sets, Arizona looked every bit Iowa State’s match, but errors, passing difficulty, and setting struggles allowed the Cyclones to close out the Wildcats 3-1 (27-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-12) at the GCU Invitational.
“We gave away two sets where we stopped doing the little things,” said Arizona head coach Rita Stubbs.
There wasn’t a part of the game that Stubbs was pleased with. The passing, setting, and hitting were all connected problems, but serving was also a problem. Arizona had just two service errors in a tight first set but averaged four in each of the final three sets.
The passing often sent starting setter Ana Heath running to set the ball, in turn making it difficult for the hitters to score. In turn, they tried to force things that weren’t there.
“We got to find someone who can set the ball in the window,” Stubbs said. “But I told them, at the end of the day, it is the hitters’ responsibility to stop throwing away plays because the ball’s not in the window to score. As frustrating as that is, because you’re gonna want to be aggressive, but sometimes you can’t take one that you want to take because the ball’s not in the window for you to be able to do it.”
None of Arizona’s pins hit over .152. As a team, the Wildcats hit .096. The second and fourth sets both ended in negative territory.
Arizona was led by Sofia Maldonado Diaz with 16 kills on .152 hitting. She added two blocks (one solo) for 17.5 points and threw in seven digs.
Alayna Johnson led the team in blocks with six total. She also had four kills on .250 hitting.
Stubbs tried to find the right mix of players. After falling behind two sets, she brought in Ava Tortorello in place of Joy Galles at libero. Halfway through the set, she also replaced her setter, substituting Kasen Rosenthal for Heath.
The Wildcats trailed 16-12 in the third set, down two sets and with their backs against the wall when Rosenthal came in. The switch didn’t pay off immediately. The Cyclones stretched the lead to 19-13 at one point, but Arizona finally started putting things together.
From 19-13 in the third, the Wildcats went on a 7-1 run to tie the set at 20. ISU pushed ahead 21-20, but that was its last lead. Arizona won six of the final nine points to extend the match.
Dropping the set seemed to get the Cyclones on track and Arizona couldn’t respond. ISU never trailed in the fourth set. Four of Arizona’s attack errors in the set were balls hit outside or into the net.
The Wildcats ended the match with 28 hitting errors while the Cyclones had just 11 blocks. Arizona added 13 service errors, which the coach attributed to the mental part of the game.
“We allow our emotions to carry over,” Stubbs said. “‘I’m frustrated. I want to go back and just randomly hit the ball.’ You got to be in better control of that. The serving and passing is what it really boils down to.”
ISU was led by Annie Hatch with 12 kills on .333 hitting.