TUCSON, Ariz. – Playing in her final regular season home match, senior Candace Nicholson recorded a career-high 36 digs to lift Arizona (20-12, 10-10 Pac-12) to a 3-1 (25-22, 16-25, 25-23, 25-21) victory over in-state rival Arizona State (19-13, 8-12 Pac-12) on Friday inside McKale Center.
Nicholson, who was recognized before the match for her senior recognition, has shattered just about every dig record in school history and she almost added another record to her name. She fell just one dig short of Katie Jackels’ school record for digs in a match. Jackels recorded 37 digs in a five-set match against Saint Mary’s on August 25, 2007. Nicholson was one of five Arizona players with double-figure digs on the night
Arizona’s defense was the story of the match as the Wildcats held ASU to just a .176 hitting percentage. Meanwhile, the Wildcats recorded a season-high 103 digs as a team on the night, which ranks seventh in school history. Ironically, five of the top-10 most digs in school history have come against Arizona State. Meanwhile, the Wildcats also out-blocked the Sun Devils, 9.0 – 5.0.
Three Wildcats recorded double-doubles on the night. Madi Kingdon recorded 20 kills and 11 digs, Jane Croson added 18 kills, 18 digs and three service aces, while Penina Snuka dished out 42 assists with 22 digs and three kills. Croson’s 18 kills were her most since also recording 18 kills in a win against No. 21 Oregon back on Oct. 4. Meanwhile, Snuka’s 22 digs were a new career-high. Taylor Arizobal also finished with double-figure digs as she added 12 to go with four kills and four blocks. Olivia Magill was solid on both ends for the night as she recorded eight kills on .364 hitting with a match-high five blocks.
Arizona closed the regular season with 20 wins, its most victories in a season since 2010, when it finished with a 20-12 overall record. The Wildcats also earn a split in the Territorial Cup Series for the third consecutive season.
The Wildcats got off to a solid start in the opening set as they jumped out to a 7-4 lead. The lead did not last long; however, as ASU immediately went on a 4-0 run to take an 8-7 advantage. The Wildcats answered with a 7-1 run to regain a 14-9 lead. The Sun Devils cut the lead to two on several occasions but that was as close as they would get as the Wildcats took the set, 25-22. Kingdon led Arizona with five kills, while the Wildcats held ASU to just .137 hitting.
The Sun Devils opened up the second set with a 5-2 advantage and Arizona could never get back into it. ASU held the lead from start to finish as it rolled to a 25-16 victory in the second set. Arizona State hit a strong .362 in the set, while Arizona struggled to just .151 hitting.
Arizona State jumped out to a quick 6-3 advantage in the third set, forcing the Wildcats to take a quick timeout. Arizona responded after the timeout with three straight points to tie the score. The Sun Devils answered right back with four straight points to regain the lead, 10-6. Arizona would not go away as it won seven of the next 10 points to tie the score 13-13. However, ASU answered once again with a 3-0 run to regain a three-point lead. The momentum kept shifting as the Wildcats won three straight to even the score back up. After some back and forth play, Arizona broke a 21-21 tie with two straight points to take a 23-21 lead. Arizona earned set-point at 24-23 and the Wildcats clinched the set after an ASU service error. Arizona hit .280 for the set, while holding ASU to just .175 hitting.
The Wildcats had all the momentum to start the fourth set as they jumped out to an 8-3 lead. Arizona remained in front until the Sun Devils battled back to tie the score 13-13. From there, ASU had all the momentum as it took an 18-14 lead. The Wildcats would not give up as they answered with a 6-0 run to regain the lead, 20-18. This time Arizona would not relinquish the lead as it went on to take the set 25-21, clinching the match. Arizona came up big defensively in the frame with four blocks as ASU hit just .055.
Macey Gardner led the ASU charge with a match-high 23 kills to go with 17 digs. BreElle Bailey had 19 kills and Whitney Follette added 12 kills. Bianca Arellano dished out a match-high 55 assists to go with 22 digs. Stephanie Preach led the defense with a team-high 30 digs.
The Wildcats will learn their NCAA Tournament fate during the selection show, which airs on Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat volleyball, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and be sure to follow the team on Twitter @ArizonaVBall.