Elite defense and stellar offense propelled No. 18 Arizona volleyball to a three-set (25-20, 26-24, 27-25) sweep of No. 20 UCLA last Friday in Malibu, Calif. The Wildcats are now 2-0 against Pac-12 Conference opponents and have garnered a 13-1 overall record.
Arizona recorded a .350 hitting percentage compared to UCLA’s .277 clip and dominated the Bruins defensively, out-blocking them 15-1.
“Wins on the road are so hard to get,” UA head coach Dave Rubio said. “Great effort for our kids on a really short week. We’ll take it and get out of town.”
Senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon notched a team-high 16 kills, while adding six digs and three assists. Senior libero Ronni Lewis had 10 digs, and sophomore setter Penina Snuka tallied 41 assists and three kills in the Wildcats’ victory.
After having her worst offensive game of the year earlier last week against ASU, Kingdon was able to make the necessary adjustments. Her accuracy improved, and she went from hitting .066 on Wednesday to posting a .227 hitting percentage on Friday.
Senior outside hitter Taylor Arizobal, junior middle blocker Halli Amaro, sophomore outside hitter Ashley Harris and redshirt freshman middle blocker McKenzie Jacobson headed Arizona’s defensive pursuits while additionally providing instrumental support in the Wildcats’ balanced offensive attack.
Jacobson, who led the team with a .500 hitting percentage, gathered a team-high three solo blocks and five block assists to accompany seven kills. Harris was in on six of Arizona’s 15 blocks and also recorded seven kills. Amaro and Arizobal amassed six kills apiece. Amaro added three digs and was in on five blocks, while Arizobal contributed defensively with a dig, three block assists and a solo block.
“Blocking comes in waves,” Rubio said. “We were just able to gain a lot of momentum and that helped us a lot defensively, and it was nice to be able to slow them down at the net.”
After cruising to a first-set win, the Wildcats depended on surges late in the second and third sets to overcome deficits and turn the tables on the Bruins. Arizona grabbed a quick 8-4 lead in the first and never gave UCLA a chance to come back. The Wildcats limited the Bruins to a .167 hitting percentage while posting a .414 clip of their own.
Arizona fought UCLA through the second set, as neither team led by more than two points. The Bruins took a 22-20 lead, but Arizona refused to relent and went on a 4-1 run to force UCLA on the ropes. Bruins’ outside hitter Karsta Lowe tied the game at 24 with a kill, but the Wildcats sealed the deal with a kill and ace serve.
In the third set, Arizona used an early lead to gain momentum and stopped UCLA from spoiling the sweep. The Bruins struggled to keep up with the Wildcats but then went on a 6-1 run to jump ahead 22-21.
UCLA had a set-point opportunity, but critical kills from Kingdon and Amaro turned the tables. An Arizona error tied the game at 25, but the Wildcats held strong to take the final two points off a service error by UCLA and a block.
The Wildcats are off until Friday and Sunday when they conclude their road trip by matching up with Utah and Colorado.
Follow Evan Rosenfeld on Twitter @EvanRosenfeld17