No. 16 Arizona volleyball loses to No. 2 Texas in heartbreak five-set affair

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Zi Yang Lai | The Daily Wildcat

Penina Snuka (20) returns a pass on Sept. 18 at McKale Center. The Wildcats dropped the match to Texas, 3-2.

The No. 16 ranked Arizona volleyball team started Friday on a positive note by beating New Mexico State in four sets. The night in McKale Center concluded with a disappointing result, however, as the Wildcats fell to No. 2 Texas in five sets.

The Wildcats won the first set against New Mexico State, 25-15, but the last three sets were highly contested. The Aggies took the second set 26-24, but UA responded and took the third set 25-19. After initially trailing 11-7 in the fourth, the Wildcats were able to fight back, taking the set 25-23 to avoid a decisive fifth set.

The Texas matchup was one the Wildcats were looking forward to since they last played last year, when Arizona dropped the match in straight sets. The Wildcats got off to a fast start in the first set, taking a 14-10 lead, and kept control to win 25-22. The No. 2 ranked Longhorns responded by winning the second set 25-16, the least competitive set of the match.

The third set proved to be very competitive with the match tied at one set a piece. Arizona trailed throughout the set, but the Wildcats were able to string together points to keep themselves in the game. After head coach Dave Rubio called a timeout as they fell behind 22-18, the team battled out four points in a row to tie the game with the help of crucial blocks from Kalei Mau and Halli Amaro.

Texas would win the next point and would eventually have set point at 24-23. The Wildcats were able to fight off three Texas set points, but they could not take the lead and eventually lost the third set, 27-25.

The Wildcats took an early 8-3 lead in the fourth and maintained control throughout the rest of the set. With Texas pressing at 20-18, the Wildcats claimed three points in a row, in large part to two clutch serves by Penina Snuka. Arizona took the set 25-20 to tie the match at two sets a piece, and it seemed the Wildcats had control and all the momentum going into the decisive set.

The Wildcats seemed to feel the pressure after taking a 2-0 lead on two Texas errors, as the Longhorns rattled off an 8-1 rally to steal the momentum and take an 8-3 lead. The deficit was too much to overcome, and the Wildcats fell 15-6 in the deciding set.

“I felt like everyone got tentative,” Rubio said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen us be like that.”

The Wildcats will have to quickly move on from the tough loss, as they play Savannah State today at noon in their final match of the weekend in McKale Center.

“We have to put all our focus on them,” defensive specialist Laura Larson said. “We need to put tonight in the past.”


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