Arizona falls to No. 1 USC, drops second straight match

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Alex McIntyre | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona's Kalei Mau (10) spikes against Oregon in McKale Center during the Wildcats' sweep of Oregon on Sunday, Sept. 27. The Wildcats play Washington State this weekend.

Arizona volleyball took its shot at No. 1 USC (20-0, 8-0 Pac-12 Conference) Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles and failed to hand the Trojans their first loss of the season, dropping the match in four sets.

The Wildcats (13-7, 3-5) had high hopes of making a statement traveling to Southern California to take on two elite teams in No. 12 UCLA and the Trojans over the weekend. Arizona improved from being swept in straight sets by UCLA on Friday, but the 'Cats still had a bitter taste in their mouths after failing to close out USC. 

Arizona had three chances to make an early statement and win the first set but were unable to do so, as USC came back to win 29-27.

The second set provided much of the same: relentless attacking by the Trojans. Though the Wildcats finished with 12.5 total team blocks to the Trojans' 11, USC led the Wildcats in kills, total attempts and hitting percentage.

USC took the second set 25-22 before the Wildcats won their one and only set in the third, 28-26. The first three sets were decided by three or fewer points but Arizona was never able to finish it off.

"We have to play better when it's the bigger moments of the match," said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio in a press release. "We're just not able to execute well enough at the end of those games."

The Trojans came out hot in the fourth set and dominated the Wildcats 25-14.

Kalei Mau was a bright spot Sunday, finishing just one kill short of her career-best 27. Tyler Spriggs finished with 11 kills while setter Penina Snuka contributed 35 assists and 16 digs. 

Snuka continues to set the pace and put the Wildcats in position to score points, as she recorder her league best 12th double-double of the season.

Libero Laura Larson recorded 20 kills against the Trojans for her second game with at least 20 digs in the Wildcats' last three outings. She contributed 22 digs against Washington State on Oct. 9.

Arizona showed its grit and resilience against the country's top team—there were 12 lead changes and 29 tie scores—but Rubio was left wanting more. 

"I thought we played well, but I'm tired of losing to the top-10 teams in the country," Rubio said in the press release. "... I think USC is legitimately the best team in the country and we're close, but I'm tired of being close."

Arizona will return home to McKale Center and hit the court Friday night against Colorado (12-8, 4-4) and Sunday against Utah (7-12, 1-7) at 11 a.m. Pac-12 Networks will have the coverage of both games.


Follow Dominic Baciocco on Twitter.



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