PALO ALTO, Calif. ?- The No. 4-seeded Arizona volleyball team (25-5) won a thrilling five-game match over No. 15 Ohio (33-3) to advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in the last six seasons on Friday. Game scores of the Stanford Regional semifinal contest were 35-37, 30-23, 26-30, 30-18, 15-12. The Wildcats will meet up with Santa Clara (26-4) on Saturday with a berth in the Final Four on the line.
Trailing 9-6 in the decisive fifth game, Arizona went on an 8-1 run for a 14-10 advantage, outlasted a two-point Bobcat swing and extended its season with the final point on one of senior Kim Glass’ five kills in the final run of the match. The Wildcats hit .500 in the fifth set, collecting 12 kills on 20 attempts with only one error.
"Ohio kept us out of rhythm all night long,” Head Coach David Rubio said. “They run a style of offense that we don’t see often and we struggled with it all match long. I’m very pleased with the effort we gave tonight and we’re going to have to get some rest because we face a very talented Santa Clara team tomorrow.”
The victory handed Rubio his 400th career coaching win and advanced his squad to the regional finals for the first time since 2002.
Struggling with passing and setting all night long, Arizona managed to salvage a .270 team hitting percentage in the match, while limiting Ohio to a .166 attack percentage. The Wildcats out-blocked the Bobcats 19 to 11 and finished with 76 digs to Ohio’s 67.
Individually, Glass led all players with 32 kills, a career postseason-high and the third-most for any player in UA’s NCAA history. Glass also added 15 digs, four total blocks and a pair of service aces.
Senior teammates Jennifer Abernathy and Bre Ladd added 19 and 10 kills, respectively. Abernathy played a large part in the come-from behind win, posting five kills apiece in the fourth and fifth games, and chipped in with 14 digs for her 16th double-double of the year. Ladd finished the contest with seven total blocks in the middle and hit a team-best .474. Junior Kristina Baum led all Arizona players with 18 digs and ended up with five total blocks and nine kills.
Trailing 2-1 after three games, a determined and veteran Wildcat squad emerged in game four to square the match at two games apiece. UA utilized an early 11-2 run to take a 20-10 lead and maintained its double digit advantage in the frame. Abernathy and Glass chipped in with 11 combined kills in the set as Arizona hit .300 while limiting Ohio to an .041 hitting percentage.
The Bobcats pulled off the victory in the opening game despite a .179 hitting percentage and a 10-4 advantage by the Wildcats on the block. The set saw the two schools hold game point a combined eight times before a Glass hitting error handed Ohio the 37-35 victory. OU’s Blackburn paced the Bobcat attack with six kills on 15 swings for a .333 hitting percentage. Glass countered with 11 kills and three block assists and classmate Ladd added two solo blocks and a pair of block assists, but five team service errors and nine attack miscues proved too much for UA to over come.
Junior setter Stephanie Butkus came off the bench in game two to help the Wildcats head in to the break with a 1-1 tie. After entering the frame midway through, Butkus finished the set with eight assists and helped UA to a .219 hitting percentage. Middle blockers Ladd and Dominique Lamb combined for seven of UA’s 14 kills in the game, and Glass added five more.
Ohio used a 6-1 run at the end of game three and posted a .333 hitting percentage, recording 15 kills on 33 attempts with only four errors to take a 2-1 lead with the four-point victory. The Wildcats didn’t help their cause with four service errors and three ball handling errors in the game.
Arizona will face No. 11 Santa Clara in the Stanford Regional final on Saturday at 8 p.m (PST). The Broncos defeated the Wildcats 3-1 in Santa Clara earlier this season. The regional final match can be seen live on ESPNU.
Arizona is 4-1 this season in five-game matches, defeating Stanford twice, USC and Ohio. It’s lone loss when going the distance was against NCAA No. 3-seed Washington on Oct. 27 ... Arizona has played in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament three times (2000, 2001, 2002) previous to this season’s appearance and is 1-2 all-time ... Arizona advanced to its first Final Four appearance after defeating USC 3-2 in 2001 ... The last time UA made it the regional finals it was at Stanford in 2002, where the Cardinal defeated Arizona 3-0 ... Arizona’s senior class of Jennifer Abernathy, Kim Glass, Bre Ladd and Angie Ayers were all on UA’s last Elite Eight team ... Glass’ 32 kills against Ohio trail only Melissa McLinden’s postseason school record 41 kills against BYU (12/14/85) and McLinden’s 34 kills against Arizona State (12/7/85) ... For Glass it was the sixth time in her postseason career she has finished a match with 20 or more kills ... Arizona’s 78 kills against Ohio on Friday fell one short of the postseason school record of 79 set against San Diego in 1996 and again at Illinois in 2001.