Another historic night for Wildcat volleyball - Tucson News Now

Another historic night for Wildcat volleyball

TUCSON, Ariz. -- What started out as a special night for head coach Dave Rubio and the Arizona volleyball program, turned into one for the history books on Friday night in front of a season-high 2,430 fans at McKale Center.

The team honored Coach Rubio in a pregame ceremony, celebrating his 25th anniversary as the Wildcats' head coach with many former Wildcats in attendance. On the court, the Cats, looking for their first win over a top-10 team since 2014 and first season sweep of USC and UCLA, made Rubio's night even more memorable, taking down ninth-ranked UCLA in straight sets (28-26, 25-21, 25-20).

“Tonight means a lot because of the recognition of my 25th year here at the U of A,” said Rubio. “The players were extra motivated and played well. It was a terrific night, all the way around.”

The victory gave Arizona its sixth victory over a ranked team in the last five weeks and a season sweep over the Bruins for the first time since 2011. Arizona is now 4-0 vs. USC and UCLA for the first time in school history. The Wildcats improved to 16-10 (8-6 Pac-12) with the victory while the Bruins, whose only two losses in their last nine matches have come to Arizona, fell to 18-5 (9-4 Pac-12). 

Kalei Mau was spectacular for Arizona on Friday night, posting 21 kills, the sixth-most in a three-set match in the Pac-12 this year, on .367 hitting. The senior added a team-high 18 digs for UA.

“I know I should play like this every night,” said Mau, a senior. “But I definitely had a little extra playing for Dave tonight. I owe so much to him and I wanted this to be an extra special match for him.”

The last time these teams met, Arizona and UCLA combined for over 200 digs. Tonight, in two fewer sets, Arizona outdug UCLA 78-71. Arizona’s 78 digs are the most by any Pac-12 team this year in a three-set match and fourth highest in the NCAA.

Penina Snuka put up double-double No. 18 on the season (including nine straight matches) with 36 assists and 17 digs while Laura Larson, who is averaging more than 4.5 digs the last five matches, added 16 for UA.

The Cats outhit UCLA in the match, .236-.134, much thanks to Mau’s 21 kill, three error night.

Devyn Cross was in on four of Arizona’s seven blocks for the match. The Cats outblocked UCLA, 7.0-6.0.

After erasing a six-point deficit in the first set to win the first set vs. USC on Wednesday, the Cats posted another first-set comeback to win the opener vs. UCLA. UA was down 10-5 and later 18-14 and stormed back to earn a set point at 24-23. The teams went back-and-forth, with UCLA fighting off three UA set points and Arizona fighting off one UCLA set point. Arizona scored the final three points to win the first 28-26. The teams combined for 56 digs in the opening set. Kalei Mau notched a match-high eight kills. 

It was Arizona who opened an early lead in the second set, carrying the momentum from the first to a 7-2 advantage early in the second. The Bruins fought back, but Arizona was able to withstand UCLA's runs, holding on to a 25-21 win to take a 2-0 lead in the match.

Mau led the Cats again in the third, posting seven kills and six digs as the Cats won the set 25-20 to sweep the match.

UP NEXT: The Wildcats take their hot streak on the road, where two ranked opponents await. UA faces Washington (Thursday) and Washington State (Sunday) in what could be a pair of top-25 showdowns.

Copyrite: Arizona Athletics

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