Consistency lost amongst 'Cats

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Jesus Barrera | The Daily Wildcat

UA outside hitter Kendra Dahlke spikes the ball against ASU on Sept. 21, 2016. The Wildcats take on the Sun Devils in their first Pac-12 conference match this Thursday, Sept. 21.

The Arizona volleyball team heads up to Tempe for a battle against rival ASU in the first matchup of Pac-12 Conference play. The conference-opening match will also be the Territorial Cup Series opener.  

Arizona is coming into the conference with a 6-3 overall record after falling to Lipscomb, Radford and this past weekend to Illinois State. The Wildcats dominated in the opening day of the Wildcat Classic taking two matches, but were unable to keep the momentum going into the match against ISU. The ‘Cats lacked consistency and are trying to improve both offensively and defensively. 

“Improvements have been good,” said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio. “Now, whether or not it’s going to be good enough by Thursday, I don’t really look at it that way. Improvements need to come from a skill standpoint and also just the mentality standpoint too.”

Arizona State will be entering the match with a six-win streak, falling only to Gonzaga and Portland State, giving the Sun Devils a 10-2 record. 

ASU’s success has been relying on the hands of seniors Oluoma Okaro and Halle Harker. The Arizona defense will need to show improvements from its last match if it wants to block ASU’s Okaro. The middle blocker leads the team with 198 kills along with 13 service aces. The senior reached her season high of 21 kills against Portland State and continues to dominate in almost all statistical categories. 

Arizona senior libero and defensive specialist Kimberly Gutierrez will focus on digging up some of Okaro’s kills during the match. Gutierrez leads the ‘Cats with 101 digs and nine service aces. 

The Wildcats are a young team in the making and are looking at consistency as their main key to a successful season. Freshman outside hitter Paige Whipple has come onto the court with a striking arm posting 90 kills earning 105.5 points so far this season. 

On the other side of the net ASU’s libero, Halle Harker, comes to the match with 230 digs this season to lead the team. Arizona’s offense will need to find a way to spike the ball past her if they hope to take home a win. 

Last year when the two rivals met at McKale Center the Wildcats the team posted career-highs as they defeated Arizona State in four sets, but it will all rely on the ‘Cats to come out in full swing. 

“ASU is a very athletic and we’ll need to come focused and ready to play, Rubio said. “But as we saw last year, anything can happen in this rivalry. We just need to cut down our errors and play well.”

The Wildcats and Sun Devils will go head-to-head on Thursday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. and will be aired on Pac-12 networks. 


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