With the Thanksgiving weekend almost over, the Arizona Wildcat athletic program hadn’t had anything to be thankful for.
The Men’s Basketball Team after starting out 3-0 and a #2 national ranking went to the Bahamas and dropped three straight to lesser talented teams, possibly dropping them out of the rankings.
The Lady Basket Cats were in their own tournament and lost both games, but with a lot less hype. Coach Barnes is experimenting with new player combinations and continues to teach and develop her young team.
Saturday afternoon brought new hope as the Football Cats traveled to Tempe in an attempt to retain the Territorial Cup but after a stellar first half and the lead, the second half was a disaster with starting quarterback Khalil Tate out of action and a total meltdown leading to the loss of the game and the Cup.
One last hope remained as Coach Dave Rubio brought his young volleyball team on the floor at McKale Center. With their season finale against none other than ASU and on Senior Night could the late November’s “Lost Weekend” be salvaged?
The first set, the young Wildcats came out and asserted themselves early, as freshman Paige Whipple and company got out to a 12-6 lead and rode it to a 25-17 win to get off on the right foot.
The momentum carried over into the second set as Arizona jumped out to a 5-0 lead before the Sun Devils got on the board. ASU got the next three out five points to cut the lead to 7-3.
Arizona State could only pull within five thereafter as Kendra Dahlke and Julia Patterson kept he Devils on the chase.
Keeping the pressure on, the Cats won the second set by the same score 25-17 to take a commanding 2-0 lead into the locker room.
The third set went back and forth with neither team leading by more than four points.
With the U of A leading 23-20 and wanting to close it out on straight sets, the Sun Devils went on a 5-0 run to capture set three and extend the match. Arizona lead was now cut in half 2-1 in sets.
The fourth set started the same as the previous one with both teams jockeying back and forth, but ASU could never take the lead away from the Wildcats although they managed to tie it up three times 5-5, 10-10 and 14-14.
With one final push Arizona went on a 7-0 run causing the Devils to call two time outs within five minutes to attempt a final gasp. It was not to be as they folded to lose the match 25-17 and 3-1 in sets.
In the Post Match Press Conference, I asked Coach Rubio to describe the improvement of the freshman over the course of the season. He didn’t want to season to end and wanted to be in the gym with them because of the strides they and the sophomores took this year.
In what would be a “Down Year” by Arizona Volleyball standards after going to the Sweet 16 last year, Coach Rubio said, “I’m optimistic about the future.” According to him, the Cats were inconsistent but will be playing once again in an elite level in the Pac-12 very soon with the outstanding underclassmen that serve, jump and spike in McKale Center.
Thank you to Seniors Jade Turner, McKenzie Jacobson and one year transfer Kimberly Gutierrez for your outstanding efforts, leading by example and setting the stage for next year.