When sets are decided by less than a handful of points, all self-inflicted injuries become even more painful. That’s how it was for Arizona on Thursday night in a 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-15) loss to Arizona State.
Despite the fact that ASU came in at 12-0 and Arizona at 5-6, the first two sets showed two evenly matched teams. The Sun Devils were able to raise their game and avoid errors in the crucial moments, though. Marta Levinska certainly helped.
Levinska had a game-high 19 kills. No one else on the Sun Devils had more than seven. She did it on .400 hitting.
“The first set, I was fine,” said Arizona head coach Rita Stubbs. “We’re competing, we’re going after it. But that is probably the third match that I feel like if we had won the first set, the whole dynamics, the complexion of the game will change.”
The third set was something entirely different. After letting ASU come back in the second set, UA didn’t respond in the final frame.
“We gave up at the end,” said Stubbs.
Arizona started out slow, allowing the Sun Devils to build a 9-4 lead in the opening set. The Wildcats repeatedly cut the lead to two or three points but couldn’t get closer than that.
Arizona looked like it was going to flip the script in the second set. The two teams stayed neck-and-neck for about half the set, but the Wildcats put their noses ahead and built a three-point lead. Then it fell apart.
From 19-17 in the second set, Arizona had two service errors and three attack errors that were simply hit out. They scored just two more points as ASU went ahead 2-0 in the match.
During the 8-2 run down the stretch, ASU got some luck. With the set tied at 20, an ace dribbled over the net to put the Sun Devils up for good. The real problems for Arizona were its own errors, though. Things that were in the Wildcats’ control. Things that have hurt them in other matches and continued to hurt them on Thursday.
“We blocked the ball and it’s in the air, we stand there, and then we scramble to get the ball,” Stubbs said. “We are told to commit on the middle on a perfect pass, and we’re late. We miss an untimely serve, or we get a ball up and we’re surprised.”
The Wildcats had seven service errors against just one ace. Meanwhile, ASU had six aces and six errors on serve.
It wasn’t just the players who made mistakes, though. Stubbs felt that some of the coaching decisions should probably have been different, too. She was critical of several personnel changes that she felt she made too late.
“Just a lot of little things in hindsight,” Stubbs said.
Arizona did have some effective offensive play. Sofia Maldonado Diaz led the team with 17 kills. She also had an ace and seven digs. Jaelyn Hodge added 10 kills on .391 hitting.
Arizona returns home to play No. 7 Washington State on Sunday.