PALO ALTO, Calif. ?- Arizona’s bid for a volleyball Final Four appearance in San Antonio, Texas, next weekend came up just inches short in a five-game loss in the NCAA regional finals to Santa Clara (27-4) at Maples Pavilion on Saturday. Game scores of the match were 22-30, 30-24, 30-26, 15-30, 17-15. Arizona wrapped up its season with 25-6 final record.
“If you have to lose, it’s good to lose going down with a fight,” Head Coach David Rubio said. “We had a swing at advancing to the Final Four, and you can’t ask for more than that.”
Trailing 16-15 in the fifth, UA’s Kim Glass, the Stanford Regional Co-MVP, saw her final attempt in an Arizona uniform hit the top of the net, slide along the tape and fall back onto the UA side for a hitting error and the final Santa Clara point.
“It’s tough for me to see the seniors ending their careers with the knowledge of how much hard work they’ve put into the program,” Rubio said. “But congratulations to Santa Clara on their first Final Four appearance. I wish them the best.”
As indicated by Rubio in the postmatch press conference, the Wildcats indeed had an opportunity to move on the national semifinals for the second time in school history. With a 15-14 lead in the final game and needing just the one more point, Glass saw her attack attempt sail high and past the end line to tie the score at 15. SCU’s Kim McGiven followed with a kill for the 16-15 SCU lead before Glass’ final attempt fell just short to end the match.
The Wildcats held the advantage nearly across the board on the final stat sheet, finishing the contest with a school postseason record 80 kills, 18 blocks and a .285 hitting percentage. Santa Clara countered with 68 kills, seven blocks and a .184 hitting percentage. However, the persistent Broncos continually found open spaces on the UA side and came up with clutch digs time after time to help them overcome the statistical difference.
Glass, the co-MVP of the regional, led all players 37 kills on the night, equaling her career-high. She wrapped up her final match with 19 digs, four total blocks and a team-best .357 hitting percentage.
SCU’s McGiven led the Bronco effort with 25 kills on .218 hitting and libero Caroline Walters proved to be a thorn in Arizona’s side with a match-high 20 digs.
After struggling to find other attackers besides Glass and Ahernathy in the second and third games, Arizona found its groove in the fourth frame to fight its way back into the match. The Wildcats hit a match-high .471 in the fourth, connecting for 18 kills on 34 attempts with only two errors. Abernathy led the way with eight kills in the game, while Glass, who had 23 kills through the first three sets, chipped in with seven more.
The Wildcats opened the contest with an eight-point victory in game one. Arizona hit .378 in the opening frame while limiting SCU to a .175 hitting percentage. Using numerous different lineups, the Wildcats had five players finish the game with three or more kills. Glass led all players in game one with six kills on .313 hitting, while Abernathy added five kills and Ladd four more. The Wildcats out-blocked Santa Clara 5-0 in the game
A four-point run early in game two brought Arizona with in a two-point deficit at 13-11, but SCU extended the lead back to four with back-to-back points and a 15-11 advantage. The four-point lead held firm throughout the rest of the frame as SCU and UA traded one-point scoring runs nearly throughout the remainder of the set. UA was its own worst enemy, as the inability to find options other then Glass and Abernathy led to an unorganized attack with 10 hitting errors and a .136 attack percentage in the frame.
Tied 15-15 in game three, an 8-1 SCU swing proved too much for Arizona to overcome despite an outstanding game from Glass. Finishing with nine kills on 14 swings and zero errors, she ended the frame with .643 hitting percentage. Arizona managed to tie the game four different times, but the Broncos continually came up with digs and fine passing to thwart the Arizona efforts.