Arizona women’s volleyball team swept the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (26-24, 25-15, 25-16) in the first game of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship at McKale Center on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. It was Arizona’s first postseason appearance since 2018.
Arizona started the first set tight with UTRGV. UTRGV continued to go on runs, taking a 13-8 lead forcing a timeout from head coach Dave Rubio. Scoring runs for Arizona kept the match close bringing it back to a 17-12 score.
Sofia Maldonado Diaz was a force for Arizona, blocking a UTRGV shot to bring it within one. Arizona quickly tied it up and forced another timeout. Arizona fell behind but was able to tie the game 24-24 and took the lead on a Jaelyn Hodge kill. Arizona won the first set 26-24. Hodge and Maldonado Diaz led the way for Arizona with five kills each.
The second set started in the same back and forth manner, with Arizona taking their first lead with a kill from Puk Stubbe to make the score 4-3. Arizona went on a 3-0 scoring run to gain some separation and continued to keep the lead with the score 12-9. Arizona forced a timeout on a 15-11 lead and stayed dominant taking a six-point lead making the score 19-13. After the kill from Stubbe, her fourth of the night, another timeout from UTRGV was called.
Arizona took a 9 point lead to reach match point and won the second set on a kill from Emery Herman. Stubbe made a large impact in the second set, totaling five kills to help Arizona win the second set 25-15.
Arizona started the third set looking confident early on going on a three-point run to make the score 3-1. On an Alayna Johnson kill the team took a five-point lead to make the score 8-3 forcing a timeout. UTRGV made plays and was able to bring the score to 12-9.
Arizona extended their lead to six and never looked back, winning the game 25-16 on an ace from Herman. The wildcat’s defense showed up when it mattered most, blocking 10 shots to UTRGV’s one.
“What happened tonight was that we serve really well and they didn't pass as well. And so our block was more efficient” Rubio said, “So we out blocked. I'm not sure what the stat is but we certainly did a really good job of blocking.”
UTRGV’s head coach Todd Lowery confirmed that Arizona’s defense was a problem for his team.
“First off, hands up to Arizona. I thought after set one they recovered really well, served it tough and were just able to keep us out of system and just really gave us a lot of fits with the block after the first set.” Lowery said. Arizona responded with strong defense, blocking two shots to help extend the lead to 16-10.
Arizona moves into the second round of the NVIC tournament, playing the University of Nevada, Las Vegas at McKale Center on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.
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