The Arizona volleyball team coasted to a convincing victory in straight sets on Friday, August 27 at McKale Center. Sweeping the New Mexico State Aggies by scores of 25-19, 25-14 and 25-20.
Tonight’s win marked Arizona’s second straight victory, starting the season with a 2-0 record.
Arizona head coach Dave Rubio alluded to the biggest difference that he saw from his team when comparing games one and two of the doubleheader.
“In the morning matches, there weren’t that many people in the stands,” Rubio said. “We were battling some nerves this morning, just not as crisp as we want. They finally, kind of, got a little more confident [and] settled down a little bit. Our execution was okay but tonight was much better for us. I think what we saw tonight is more what I see every single day in practice.”
The Wildcats got off to a sluggish start as they quickly found themselves down to the Aggies 6-4 early in the first set thanks to a pair of errors by sophomores Jaelyn Hodge and Sophia Maldonado. However, Arizona would quickly answer with a 4-0 scoring run. A run that was highlighted by a missile down the middle by Hodge. They certainly benefited from New Mexico State’s five service errors in the match that catapulted Arizona to an easy first set victory.
A centerpiece of Arizona’s middle line, Kamaile Hiapo made her presence felt as she tallied 7 digs in just the first set alone. Hiapo turned in a commendable performance as she finished the night with 17 digs out of the 50 digs the Wildcats collected overall.
Arizona didn’t miss a step in the second set as they were able to carry over and sustain the momentum that they created in the first. The Wildcats didn’t even have to move a muscle early in the set as the Aggies committed three straight attacking errors and found themselves in a quick 0-3 hole. Arizona took advantage and raced to a 12-5 lead after a pair of kills from both Sofia Maldonado and Dutch international Puk Stubbe.
Coach Rubio was impressed with Stubbe’s performance tonight considering her slow transition from the European to the American game.
“Hadn’t seen Puk, kind of, be that good in practice yet,” Rubio said. It’s been a slow transition from the Netherlands and the system they run there. She’s a beach player and, kind of, being an indoor player. I always knew that she was going to be a terrific player. It’s nice for her to get a little more comfortable out there.”
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Herman did her best Magic Johnson impression as she racked up an absurd total of 33 assists for the match. Her 33 assists were 23 more than the player with the second-most assists in the match which came by way of the Aggies’ Carly Aigner-Swesey who finished with 10. The Wildcats were paced by their young attacking duo in Hodge and Stubbe as they collected a pair of kills and an assist which saw them coast to a dominant 25-14 second set victory.
The third set had a bit of a different feel to it. To New Mexico State’s credit, they weren’t quite ready to head back to the visiting locker room and wouldn’t go down without a fight. The Wildcats and Aggies went back and forth as they kept trading errors and kills early in the set. It was unclear who would take the third set as the momentum kept shifting from one team to the other.
After Jaelyn Hodge caught fire and delivered three straight kills, Maldonado decided to put her stamp on the game as well as she added another four kills to her name. Right out of the timeout, the Wildcats were able to regroup and find their rhythm again. Collecting three straight points and leading 20-16 before an Aggies’ timeout. The 3-0 run was highlighted by an impressive Maldonado block assist and kill by Herman.
Arizona went on to close out the Aggies 25-20 in the third set and ultimately win the match. Stubbe put her finishing touches on the match as she added two kills and an emphatic kill by Herman for the match point.
The Wildcats completely owned the stat sheet as they led the match in kills, assists, aces, digs, blocks, and hitting percentage. Herman led all players with a .500 hitting percentage while the potent attacking triumvirate of Stubbe, Hodge, and Maldonado combined for a stellar 32 kills. Weidt did her part as well as she led the game with four blocks.
Arizona will look to get off to an impressive 3-0 start to the season as they take on UC San Diego on Saturday, August 28, at 1:30 p.m. MST in McKale.
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