TUCSON, Ariz. – Sixteenth-ranked Arizona volleyball remained unbeaten and extended its set-winning-streak to 11 consecutive as the Cats took down South Dakota in their first match of the Arizona Invitational (25-13, 25-23, 25-14).
Kalei Mau (11 kills) and Kendra Dahlke (11 kills) led the Arizona offense which hit .398 as a team, its highest total of the year.
UA dominated the first and third sets, but had to overcome a late 23-22 deficit in the second to preserve the sweep.
"It was good to get pressed in game two,” said head coach Dave Rubio. “I like how we responded at that time. South Dakota is a good team. I thought they were a little nervous coming out in the first game. But game 2 they kind of got in system and they shook the nerves and played well. They pressed us quite a bit. We need to get pressed whether we lose a match along the way, that is going to help us and kind of galvanize us for the conference and that's what we are trying to do, get ready for the conference in a few weeks here."
The Cats limited South Dakota to .095 hitting in the match, marking the third consecutive match in which Arizona’s defense has held its opponent under .100. UA outdug USD 44-38 and outblocked the Coyotes 6-1. Penina Snuka (8) and Mackenzie Kleespies (8) were Arizona’s digs leaders while Halli Amaro led the team with four blocks.
Amaro needed just six swings to register five kills while fellow middle McKenzie Jacobson totaled seven kills on just 13 swings. Nikki Attea was another bright spot for the Cats offensively, notching nine kills on .333 hitting.
Attea was one of six Wildcats to make their McKale debut in Saturday’s home opener.
“Playing at McKale was awesome,” said Attea. “The Tucson crowd was really welcoming, and I think our team really did a good job of coming out strong in the home opener.”
After dropping the first point of the match, Arizona went on a 6-0 run and never looked back, cruising to a first-set 25-13 first-set victory. Arizona hit .533 in the frame. The high-powered offense was led by Kendra Dahlke (6 kills) and Kalei Mau (5 kills).
The Coyotes fought back in the second set, battling the Wildcats even through the first 40 points. Arizona then took a 22-20 lead before three straight South Dakota points gave the Coyotes a 23-22 lead. UA scored the final three points of the set to take the game and take a 2-0 lead in the match.
“It was kind of a mindset of just 'bearing down',” said Snuka about the final few points of the second set. “You want those close matches that go back and forth because you are going to get them come conference play. To see that we were able to pull through was a really good sign.”
Arizona cruised to a 25-14 victory in the third set.