Courtesy of Arizona Communications Services
Twenty-fourth-ranked Arizona volleyball outlasted No. 12 Oregon in five sets (25-23, 16-25, 25-23, 22-25, 16-14) on Friday night in a two-hour, forty-minute thriller in Eugene.
“That was a hard fought win on the road,” said head coach Dave Rubio. “The match could have gone either way and it was nice to be able to execute when it counted.”
The victory marked Arizona’s first win over a ranked team this season and first since beating 16th-ranked Oregon last season (Nov. 12). The Wildcats have now defeated Oregon while it’s been ranked in six straight seasons. The win was Arizona’s victory over its highest-ranked opponent since beating No. 9 UCLA on Nov. 4, 2016 and highest-ranked road victory since a win at No. 12 Stanford on Oct. 14, 2016.
UA improved to 13-2, 2-1 Pac-12 on the season while Oregon fell to 9-4, 2-1 Pac-12.
The back-and-forth marathon featured high-level volleyball from the two top offenses in the Pac-12. Arizona had 69 kills on .240 hitting while Oregon posted 78 kills on .269 hitting. But on a night where Oregon may have had an advantage on the stat sheet, the Pac-12 kills leader was the difference for Arizona.
On a night where she moved into the UA career top 10 in kills (10th – 1,192) and on a night in which she took a career-high-tying 75 swings, senior outside hitter Kendra Dahlke willed the Wildcats to victory. She led the Wildcats with 26 kills and just seven errors in the match. She also added to her Pac-12-lead in double-doubles, posting her 10th with 13 digs in the match.
“Kendra was pretty spectacular tonight,” said Rubio. “During the match you don’t really get a sense of the statistical performances, so I didn’t realize she put up the kind of numbers she did until afterward.”
Junior setter Julia Patterson (58 assists, 12 digs) and sophomore outside hitter Paige Whipple (11 kills, 15 digs) also had double-doubles in the match.
“Julia is the straw that stirs the drink,” said Rubio. “I thought Julia was terrific tonight.”
Playing a new position on Friday night, sophomore Candice Denny had a career effort for the Wildcats. Moving from middle blocker to right side hitter, Denny had a career-high 13 kills on .344 hitting.
“We had to play Candice at the opposite tonight,” said Rubio, whose normal right-side rotation features two players nursing injuries. “And I thought she did really well tonight. I thought our littles did well passing; it was really a team effort.”
Sophomore middle blocker Shardonee Hayes led the Wildcats with five blocks, none bigger than her match-point stuff, along with Patterson, that gave the Wildcats the victory in the fifth set.
The two top offenses in the Pac-12 did not disappoint in the first set. Arizona posted 17 kills on .353 hitting, bettering Oregon (15 kills on .257 hitting), 25-23 in the first set. UA led the majority of frame and then overcame a 5-0 Oregon run that turned a 19-16 Arizona lead to a 21-19 Oregon advantage to win the set.
Oregon responded with a dominant 25-16 victory in the second set. The Ducks had 21 kills on .429 hitting in the frame.
After the rout in the second, the third featured the same back-and-forth high powered offenses trading punches like the first set with the same result. UA won the third, 25-23, to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
The teams traded runs in the fourth and a late 4-1 run by the Ducks gave them the fourth, 25-22, to force a fifth set.
The Wildcats led early in the fifth set, but were unable to pull away from the Ducks, who fought back until tying the frame at 12-12, then again at 13-13 and then again at 14-14. A Dahlke kill and Shardonee Hayes and Julia Patterson block gave the Wildcats a 16-14 victory in the fifth set and 3-2 win in the match.
Arizona will face Oregon State on Sunday at noon in Corvallis, Oregon.