Arizona volleyball: Wildcats get big win on emotional senior night
Arizona outside hitter Kalei Mau spikes the ball at Utah players in Wednesday night's senior game Nov. 23 in McKale Center. Wildcats won 3-1 against #17 ranked Utah.
On Senior Night, Arizona women’s volleyball upset No. 17 Utah 3-1, earning their seventh win against a ranked opponent this season and improving their overall record to 18-13.
Arizona competed with high intensity in the first set, but couldn’t stop the Utes attackers who totaled a .381 hitting percentage over Arizona’s .195. That proved to be the difference as Utah took the set 25-22. The Wildcats came back by hitting at .333 in the second to help them to a 25-18 win and tie the match 1-1. Arizona dominated in a victorious 25-16 third set, then translated that play to a game ending 25-15 win in the fourth set, giving the Wildcats a 3-1 match victory.
All five seniors played big minutes in the final game of their college careers at McKale Center, describing the night as an exciting and emotional experience.
“It was all good emotions,” said Arizona setter Penina Snuka. “This team is so close and to be at the front end of my career with them, and these girls, and this group of seniors—the emotions run high.”
Snuka was among the five seniors honored before the match and enjoyed a historical senior night. In the second set, a kill from outside hitter Kendra Dahlke gave Snuka her 18th assist of the night and the 5,000th of her career. With this accomplishment, she joins Dana Burkholder as the only players in Arizona history to surpass 5,000 assists. She completed the night with 5,034, which ranks her 13th in the PAC-12 all-time.
Arizona libero Laura Larson has had a historical career at Arizona as well and leads the program in games played. Against Utah, Larson added 21 digs to her 1,160 total over four years. Outside hitter Kalei Mau led the team with a double-double through 21 kills and 12 digs. She was followed by her fellow seniors Dahlke and outside hitter Katarina Pilepic with 13 and nine kills, respectively.
Although it was senior night, the freshman middle blocker Devyn Cross made an impact on a veteran court. Out of the middle, she was third on the team in kills with 10 and had five blocks. With Arizona losing four of its five starters next season, a player like Cross provides promise for more successful seasons to come.
“The first time she walked into the gym I knew she was going to be really successful here,” Mau said.
Arizona played a clean game, with only three service errors and hitting at a .302 percentage. Head coach David Rubio accredits the team’s execution to the momentum built after the first set.
“It was shaky there at the beginning. I thought we were tentative and nervous,” Rubio said. “Finally at the end at the of the first set we started playing much, much better and started to relax a little bit.”
On Sunday, Arizona will finish the regular season at rival Arizona State. With a win against the last place Sun Devils, Arizona can improve its conference record to 11-9, which should bode well for their NCAA tournament chances, which will be announced Monday.