It was a long Friday night in a Pac-12 volleyball match between Oregon and Arizona at Matthew Knight Arena.
The Ducks only wished it could have gone longer.
After forcing a fifth set and rallying from behind to get it even, 12th-ranked Oregon (9-4 overall, 2-1 in the Pac-12) finally succumbed to the 24th-ranked Wildcats (13-2, 2-1) by 25-23, 16-25, 25-23, 22-25, 16-14.
It was the fourth consecutive time Oregon and Arizona have taken a match to the fifth set, this marathon lasting nearly three hours before Arizona successfully blocked a kill attempt by Brooke Van Sickle to end it shortly before 11 p.m.
“I told the team I would have stayed here till 2 a.m.,” UO coach Matt Ulmer said. “Our league is just brutal.
“You’re playing really good teams ... we’re one of those. I thought we fought hard the whole way, we just didn’t execute as well as Arizona.”
Much of Arizona’s success was due to Kendra Dahlke, who finished with 26 kills on 75 attacks. She also had 13 digs while sophomore Paige Whipple, a graduate of West Salem High School, also had a double-double with 11 kills and 15 digs.
“She’s just really good and they ride her,” Ulmer said. “If she’s good, they’re hard to beat.”
Lindsey Vander Weide led the Ducks with 17 kills and recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 19 digs. August Raskie also had a double-double with 61 assists and 22 digs while Brooke Nuneviller had a team-high 23 digs.
Ulmer said Oregon’s major problem was responding to Arizona.
“We didn’t pass very well, that was our worst passing performance of the year,” he said. “We passed well in the second set.
“If we’re passing well we have so many options but Arizona neutralized that. Our passers are going to have to respond better.
Oregon was down from the start of the fifth set, never leading and not drawing even until a 12-12 deadlock on Van Sickle’s kill, one of her seven in the set plus an ace.
“Without her, we weren’t back in that thing,” Ulmer said of the final set.
Dahlke’s seventh kill of the opening set gave the Wildcats a 19-16 lead before the Ducks scored the next five points, two each on kills by Vander Weide and Willow Johnson. But with Oregon up 23-22, Arizona closed out the set with three consecutive points.
Oregon jumped off to an 8-2 advantage in the second set behind two kills each by Ronika Stone and Vander Weide. The lead reached 19-9 before a four-point run by the Wildcats but the Ducks regained control and ended up hitting a robust .429 behind six kills each by Vander Weide and Lauren Page.
Arizona led the third set 10-7 before Oregon scored six of the next seven points. A tie at 15-15 was the first of eight deadlocks, the last at 23-23 on Stone’s kill before Arizona closed it out with consecutive points, the last when the volleyball fell to the floor after an apparent miscommunication by the Ducks.
The Wildcats scored the first four points of the fourth set and were up 12-7 when the Ducks took a timeout that prompted a 7-1 run and a 14-13 lead. The Wildcats responded with four consecutive points but a 5-1 spurt by the Ducks evened the set at 19-19. Arizona squeezed back in front 22-21 before the Ducks closed out the set with four consecutive points, two on kills by Johnson.
Oregon closes out this four-match homestand Sunday at 1 p.m. against Arizona State before road matches next weekend at No. 18 UCLA and No. 13 USC.