Wildcats volleyball eliminated in second round of NCAAs
The Arizona indoor volleyball team won its first match of the NCAA tournament since 2005, sweeping New Mexico State (22-11) on Friday (25-14, 25-23, 25-19) — to its 27th NCAA tournament match all-time — but was eliminated on Saturday night.
Arizona (21-13) dropped the second match to No. 9-seed San Diego (26-3) in three sets (25-14, 25-19, 25-22), allowing the Toreros to be part of the Sweet Sixteen in Lincoln, Neb.
“I think it was a tough battleship for us,” head coach Dave Rubio said.
Junior outside hitter Madi Kingdon led Arizona’s offense versus San Diego with a match-high 15 kills for the night. Kingdon also recorded a team-high 12 digs, earning her 16th double-double of the season. She finished the season with 508 kills. She is now sixth on the school’s all-time kills list with 1,312 kills for her career, with one season left in Arizona.
Freshman setter Penina Snuka led the Pac-12 Conference with 19 double-doubles this season.
In her last match played as a Wildcat, senior Candace Nicholson finished with 10 digs. Nicholson recorded 512 digs on the season, being the only player in school history to record 500 digs in one season. She finished her career with 1,642 digs.
The first set didn’t go well for Arizona offensively. The Wildcats only hit .176 while San Diego hit .536.
The Toreros were also efficient in the second set, hitting .356 with an aggressive defense not letting Arizona do much throughout the set. The Wildcats used their first timeout when San Diego held the 5-1 lead. Arizona tried to battle but fell short.
The last set was the closest for Arizona to have the chance to get back into the match, but San Diego’s offense was strong and finished hitting .273.
More time to prepare was something Rubio said they needed. Only one hour practicing on the court before the second match, left him frustrated.
Although the season didn’t end the way he wanted, Rubio said he was pleased with what the team accomplished from last season.
“We accomplished a lot with this group, getting those 21 wins especially,” Rubio said.
Two Wildcats wore the Arizona jerseys for the last time ever: Nicholson and outside hitter Shaquillah Torres.
With only two players finishing their career in Arizona, the starting line-up for next season won’t change much from this year’s starting line-up.
“I feel confident about that,” Rubio said.
Rubio also said he is pleased with the fact that they accomplished goals as a team this season — from sticking together to getting past the first round of the tournament.
—Follow Rose Aly Valenzuela @RoseAlyVal