The 14th-ranked Arizona volleyball team fell short in its quest to record what would have been the Wildcats’ greatest start in program history after falling to Colorado on Sunday. Arizona opened its weekend road trip with a 3-0 victory over Utah on Friday.
The win against the Utes had improved the UA’s record to 14-1, tying the team’s best start to the season since 2000 and best start to conference play since 2005.
The Wildcats (14-2, 3-1 Pac-12 Conference) struggled offensively and experienced their second loss of the season after being swept by Colorado (25-22, 25-21, 25-23) in Boulder.
“I felt like we were not prepared to play against a good opponent,” UA head coach Dave Rubio said. “We underestimated them. From the first serve to the last point, they played with much more aggressiveness than we did.”
Arizona seemed overwhelmed against the Buffaloes’ offensive attack and had trouble scoring throughout the match. The Wildcats were out-blocked (8.0-6.0), out-hit (.250-.150) and out-dug (57-44) by Colorado.
Key components of Arizona offense struggled as outside hitters Madi Kingdon, Taylor Arizobal and Ashley Harris combined to average a dismal .100 hitting percentage over the three sets. Arizobal recorded as many attacking errors (four) as she had kills, while Harris gathered five kills on 16 attempts and two errors.
Kingdon, who has recently experienced difficulty in her scoring abilities, notched 14 kills on 48 attempts, but committed nine attack errors on Sunday. Over the course of the weekend, Kingdon amassed 18 attack errors and hit at a .149 clip.
Senior middle blocker Rachel Rhoades sprung back to action after being sidelined with a concussion last month and played in four of the Wildcats’ six sets this weekend. Rhoades picked up the offensive slack and allowed Arizona to compete offensively against the Buffaloes.
She paced the team with a match-high .600 hitting percentage and contributed six kills and three blocks.
Sophomore setter Penina Snuka recorded her 12th double-double of the season after 31 assists and 12 digs.
In the first and second sets, Arizona gave way to early Colorado leads and was unable to find scoring opportunities. The Wildcats hit .088 in the first set and .136 in the second set.
Once the Buffaloes grabbed a 6-4 lead in the first, they never looked back. Arizona came within two points three different times, but was unable to break through Colorado’s defense.
The second set was more evenly contested, but the Wildcats still couldn’t catch the Buffaloes down the final stretch. In the third set, after 13 ties and five lead changes, the Wildcats were ultimately unable to keep up with Colorado and fell 25-23.
Friday’s contest at Utah resulted in a straight set victory (25-21, 25-23, 25-23) for Arizona. The Wildcats’ stellar defense proved to be the deciding factor as Arizona out-dug the Utes 53-39 and had three players record double-digit digs.
“We’re living life on the edge,” Rubio said of the close victories in each set against the Utes. “We weren’t as sharp, but we managed to play well at the right time.”
Snuka, Kingdon and senior libero Ronni Lewis led the Wildcats defensive pursuits. Snuka, who compiled 38 assists and 16 digs, recorded her 11th double-double of the season. Lewis added 14 digs, and Kingdon, who earned her 92nd double-digit-kill match, gathered 18 kills and pitched in 12 digs.
Redshirt freshman middle blocker McKenzie Jacobson led Arizona’s offensive attack with a .600 hitting percentage and registered seven kills on 10 attempts.
Next up, Arizona continues Pac-12 play and hosts California and Stanford this Wednesday and Friday, respectfully, in McKale Center.
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