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Arizona Athletics | October 7, 2017

Arizona hands USC first conference loss in three-set sweep

Arizona improves to 8-7 in their sweep of No. 15 USC.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona volleyball swept 15th-ranked USC on Friday night in McKale Center (25-23, 25-17, 26-24), handing the Trojans their first conference loss of 2017. 

Arizona out-killed (41-35), out-blocked (11-6), out-dug (45-42) and out-hit (.262-.140) the 15th-ranked team in the nation, which had won five straight matches, most recently a sweep of then-No. 6 Washington.

"It's certainly nice to win, you're never sure in this conference about what's going to happen," said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio. "It's hard to know when you're going to win, and like I've said in the past it's really about the process for us. It's nice to be able to reinforce what we've been doing every day in practice by winning."

Arizona had 11 blocks in the three sets, holding USC's offense, which was among the nation's best entering Friday, to 35 kills on .140 hitting. Meanwhile, the Wildcats hit .262, led by 11 kills on .320 hitting from senior Kendra Dahlke. Freshman Paige Whipple added 10 kills.

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"After the loss to UCLA, I think our mentality was focusing on what we needed to take care of," said Dahlke, who has double-digit kills in five of Arizona's last six matches after doing that just thrice in Arizona's first nine matches of 2017. "We're trying to not worry about what the other team is doing and just focusing on ourselves and executing. "

In her first career start, Candice Denny was terrific for Arizona. The freshman needed just 11 swings to pick up a career-high eight kills (.636 hitting) including the match-clinching point in the third set. Denny also finished with three blocks in the match.

Sophomore Devyn Cross led the Wildcat front line with six blocks, while Elizabeth Shelton added five.

Sophomore Julia Patterson ran UA's offense to perfection, dishing out 34 assists and digging 13 balls for her seventh double-double of the season.

The victory kept alive a streak of, now, seven consecutive seasons in which Arizona has upset either USC or UCLA while they have been ranked. The Cats have now won three consecutive matches vs. the Trojans.

MORE: BYU pushes past Saint Mary's in five-set battle

Arizona improved to 8-7 (2-4 Pac-12) while USC fell to 12-4 (4-1 Pac-12). The win ended a four-match losing streak in Pac-12 play for UA.

"It's been a long couple of weeks for us, the last time we had a day off was a week ago Tuesday. We've been at it now for 9 straight days, and I'm pleased by the way that we've gone about our business. I just know that eventually we're going to start to play better and more consistently. The problem is that in our conference even though you're playing better it doesn't always equal the winning. Even against UCLA I thought there were moments that we played really well, but they were just too good that night. It's tough to be such a young team in such an unforgiving conference."

The teams traded 6-0 runs early in the first set, with USC using one to go up 10-4 before Arizona tied the set with six straight point to make it 12-12. The teams traded points until UA went on a late 4-1 run to take a 23-21 lead. UA closed out the set, 25-23, on a Paige Whipple kill.

Arizona used an 8-0 run to turn a three-point deficit into a five-point lead early in the second set. Arizona never looked back, winning the set 25-17.

In the third, Arizona led big early, but the Trojans quickly erased a 9-3 Wildcat lead and began to turn the momentum in the match. Up 22-19, USC needed just three points to force a fourth set. Arizona ended the match on a 7-2 run, including fighting off a pair of USC set points in the third, to win the match with a 26-24 victory in the third.

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