Arizona Volleyball: Wildcats lose in four sets to Oregon
Arizona outside hitter Katarina Pilepic serves the ball during a match against Oregon on Saturday, October 1. The Wildcats fell to the Ducks 1-3.
Arizona women’s volleyball started October with a pink out at home against No. 21 Oregon. The Ducks took the match in four sets, handing Arizona its first home loss this season.
A decent crowd dressed in pink and red, came to support the girls, but McKale Center was mostly quiet as the first set opened up with an 8-3 Oregon lead, forcing head coach Dave Rubio to call a timeout.
Tips were the only thing going for Arizona early, accounting for half of its first eight points. McKenzie Jacobson was the first one to figure this trick out, allowing her to put up 16 kills on the night with a .462 hitting percentage.
“The tip up the middle was a part of the scouting report, so I tried to execute that as well as possible,” Jacobson said. “The passing and setting was great–it’s a team effort.”
Jacobson led Arizona to come back from a six-point deficit in the first set, but the Wildcats were too far behind, and lost 25-19.
Going into the second set, the Wildcats attempted to wake up the crowd from the play of Penina Snuka who came through with a big kill to give the team a 4-3 lead.
Arizona started to gain a little momentum, a powerful service run led the Wildcats to an 11-7 lead. Snuka followed up with great defense and reinvigorated the crowd.
From Snuka’s leadership, the offense went off and racked up back-to-back kills to put the Ducks in their place and take the second set 25-21.
Momentum shifted in the third set, Arizona started to self-destruct with soft hits and frequent unforced errors.
Oregon sucked every bit of energy out of McKale Center by taking an 11-4 lead.
Nothing seemed to be going Arizona’s way in this set, ball control became a struggle and all the calls were going against the Wildcats.
In the third set, Rubio tried to get creative by putting much of the bench in, but it didn't work.
Laura Larson’s defense gave Snuka and Jacobson a spark to start scoring some points, but, ultimately, the team couldn’t stop the Ducks and took a 25-17 loss.
In the fourth set both teams played sloppy, keeping the score close, but Oregon was continuously in front. Devyn Cross and Kalei Mau worked the offense to keep the Wildcats within two points, but defensive mistakes allowed Oregon to stay in the lead.
From 0-0 to 17-15 to 22-22, there was no room to breathe in the fourth set. Arizona wouldn’t go down without a fight.
After falling 24-22, Arizona pushed back to a 24-24 tie, but couldn’t contain the Ducks. The final set finished 26-24 in favor of Oregon, giving them the match.
The mood of the match was tense while the energy was low in McKale Center. This was characterized by a Mau block-touch that the team watched hit the floor.
“Normally we have a day of in between [matches], whether mentally tired or physically tired, it’s a different dynamic out there” Rubio said.
Arizona is a team hindered by injury. With Kendra Dahlke out with a concussion and Mau’s limited playing time, the team is struggling to find an identity.
The Wildcats are starting to get a little frustrated with the varied lineup’s which hinder the team from developing a connection. “It is really hard to get momentum when you’re just playing in three rotations,” Mau said. “I’m not used to that.”
The lineup variation has been a learning experience for the team according to Mau, but Rubio has hope that the full roster will be intact for the upcoming match ups.
“Kendra will get cleared on Monday, hopefully, and hopefully Kalei stays healthy, but all those things are big ifs at this point,” Rubio said.
The Wildcats will need to reevaluate and regroup as they head to California for a four-game road trip.Follow Nikki Baim on Twitter.