TUCSON, Ariz. – For the first time in 20 years, the Arizona (15-5, 5-3 Pac-12) volleyball team knocked off the No. 1 team in the country. The Wildcats played their most compete match of the season as they pulled the upset of top-ranked USC (17-2, 7-1 Pac-12) in sweeping fashion, 3-0 (27-25, 25-21, 25-21), on Sunday inside McKale Center.
Arizona last defeated a No. 1 team on Nov. 3, 1993 when it knocked off then unbeaten UCLA inside McKale Center. The Wildcats swept UCLA and USC in back to back for the first time since 2001, the same year Arizona advanced to the Final Four. The sweep of USC was also the first time the Wildcats have ever swept a No. 1 team.
The Wildcats turned in their best offensive effort in conference play as they hit .324 for the match, their highest percentage in Pac-12 play and their highest since hitting .352 in a sweep of Loyola Maryland back on Sept. 20.
Freshman setter Penina Snuka was spectacular as she dished out 43 assists to go with 10 digs and two kills for her league-leading 10th double-double of the season. The 43 assists equal the most by any player in the Pac-12 this season in a three-set match.
Madi Kingdon had a productive and efficient afternoon as she recorded a match-high 20 kills on .340 hitting to go with six digs and a service ace. Olivia Magill added 11 kills on .370 hitting and tied teammate Taylor Arizobal for match-high honors with three blocks. Arizobal also added seven kills with no errors on .389 hitting. Halli Amaro was also efficient on the night as she recorded seven kills on .400 hitting.
Arizona also played spectacular defense on the afternoon as Jane Croson finished with a match-high 17 digs to go along with nine kills. Candace Nicholson had 12 digs and Ronni Lewis was the fourth member of the Wildcats with 10 or more digs as contributed 11 digs.
The Wildcats got off to a solid start in the opening set as they jumped out to a 10-7 lead. Arizona remained in front until USC eventually tied the score at 13-13. After some back and forth play, USC finally took the lead at 16-15, but the Trojans could not extend their lead past one. Later, with the score tied 20-20, the Wildcats won the next two points to take the two point lead. After the two teams traded the next couple points to make the score 23-21, USC won the next two to tie the score 23-23. Following some more back and forth play, Arizona broke a 25-25 tie as it got back to back kills from Halli Amaro to clinch the set, 27-25. Snuka was incredible in the set with 20 assists and seven digs.
USC jumped out to a quick 4-1 advantage in the second set but the Wildcats battled back to win the next three to tie the score. Neither team could go on a significant run until the Trojans won three straight points as they trailed 12-11 to take a 14-12 lead, forcing Arizona to take a timeout. The Wildcats battled back to tie and eventually take a 16-15 lead after a Kingdon service ace. The Trojans could never manage to tie the score back up as the Wildcats went on to win the set 25-21. Kingdon was incredible in the set as she recorded 10 kills, while Croson led the defense with six digs. Arizona hit a solid .378 in the frame.
The Trojans stormed out to a quick 4-0 advantage in the third set, forcing Arizona to burn a quick timeout. USC maintained its four point lead at 11-7 until the Wildcats reeled off four straight points to tie the score. After the two teams battled to a 13-13 tie, Arizona won two straight to take the 15-13 advantage. UCLA could not manage to close the gap as the Wildcats closed out the set and match with a 25-21 win. The Cats hit a solid .319 in the set, while holding USC to a .225 attack efficiency.
The trio of Alexis Olgard, Samantha Bricio and Ebony Nwanebu each recorded 11 kills to lead the Trojans.
Arizona hits the road for a four-match road swing beginning with Colorado and Utah next weekend. The Wildcats will take on the Buffaloes on Friday at 6 p.m. before taking on Utah on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Utah match will air on the Pac-12 Networks.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat volleyball, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and be sure to follow the team on Twitter @ArizonaVBall.