In the final match of the regular season, 23rd-ranked Arizona volleyball took down Arizona State in four sets (25-20, 23-25, 25-22, 25-21) in front of a season-high 3,144 fans in McKale Center on a day in which Arizona honored its four seniors, Halli Amaro, Anna Panagiotakopoulos, MacKenzie Kleespies and Nikki Attea in their final matches in the arena.
“It was a hard fought victory,” said head coach Dave Rubio. “I have the upmost respect for Jason Watson and ASU. The job that he has done with his group after losing Macey Gardner has been remarkable. I’m proud of our kids and our ability to come in and really fight hard during a tough week. ASU had the same kind of week except it was a little harder for them because they had to travel down to Tucson. We will certainly savor the win”
UA used excellent defense - 80 digs and 14 blocks - to limit ASU to an .074 hitting percentage, the second lowest opposing hitting percentage in Pac-12 play for the Cats.
In the absence of outside hitter Kalei Mau, who suffered a concussion prior to the match, Kendra Dahlke stepped up to contribute a career-high 13 kills to lead the Cats to victory.
“Losing Kalei was tough, especially since we also lost McKenna Painton this morning… It was a terrific match for Kendra Dahlke and Elizabeth Inch. Both of them came in, didn’t skip a beat, and really played well. We couldn’t have done it without their ability to step in and play at the level that they did, so it was a good team victory for us. It reinforces the process for us.”
In her final match in McKale, Amaro posted 10 kills on a team-best .320 hitting while also adding seven blocks and a career-high-tying six digs.
“This whole week has been hard, trying not to focus on the title of the day,” said Amaro, who tied the Arizona record in career sets played with 451. “There is always going to be emotions behind it, but they are positive emotions, you want to be able to give to your team and be able to have an ideal senior night, which I think I did – winning with my team. With Kalei concussed, we had freshman (Kendra Dahlke) step up, and we had defensive specialists come in and play who have been on-and-off all season (replacing McKenna Painton, also concussed), so I think it was just a different kind of day. I am happy where we ended.”
Laura Larson continued her late-season charge, delivering her 15th straight match with 10-plus digs and third straight 20-plus-dig match while leading the Cats with 23.
Right behind her was Penina Snuka, whose 18 digs went along with 43 assists to give her 21 double-doubles in Arizona’s 32 regular season matches.
The victory marks Arizona’s fourth victory over the Sun Devils in the last five meetings. UA leads the overall series 46-42.
“It does mean more, beating the school up north,” said Amaro. “The way we started off the season, we lost to them. Ultimately, we get the last laugh beating them.”
It’s now a waiting game for the Wildcats as the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. MST on ESPNU.
“You like to take care of business, and put yourself in a situation where the committee has no other choice but to select you,” said Rubio. “I think we are a team that is right on the bubble, and our hope is that our overall resume is enough to get us in.”
Up Next: Arizona will learn its postseason fate when the NCAA Tournament field is announced on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. on ESPNU.
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