UA volleyball wraps up Territorial Cup point with 5-set win

Arizona State volleyball took the second half of their series with University of Arizona to five sets, but couldn’t deliver the knock-out punch.

The ASU loss gives the No. 23-ranked Wildcats (16-7, 5-5) the full point in the State Farm Territorial Cup series.  The Cats picked up a half-point with their Oct. 1 win in Tucson, but needed yesterday’s win to get the full point.

Eighteen teams are involved in the Territorial Cup competition; 9.5 total points are need to claim the trophy.  ASU soccer picked up a point earlier this month, so the series is tied at 1-1, thanks to the Wildcats’ volleyball success.

In the first half of the series, the Cats enjoyed a 3-0 sweep.  But it wasn’t so easy this time around.

The sets see-sawed back and forth, with Arizona jumping out to a 5-3 lead in the first set.  But as the game wore on, there were 17 tie scores and nine lead changes.  The Cats finished with an 8-3 run to come out on top, 25-22, thanks in large part to the play of Tiffany Owens, who had six kills, and Sarah Reaves, who added five more.

In the second set, it was ASU (9-13, 4-6) getting on top of things early with a 6-2 lead.  They went on to post a .400 attack percentage and coast to a 25-15 win.  The Cats had their lowest attack percentage of the five sets, going just .053 in the loss.

The Sun Devil defense was sparked by Erica Wilson, the sophomore middle blocker from California, who had four blocks and three assists – and then contributed on offense with five kills.

UofA took the lead back in the third set, opening up a 12-5 lead and then closing with a 7-0 run to win, 25-13.  The fourth set went to ASU, as the Devils put together a .444 team attack percentage to stay alive with a 25-17 win.

Malia Marquardt, the sophomore transfer from BYU, had six kills and an incredible .857 attack percentage in that all-important set.  And Stephanie Preach, the freshman sensation from Xavier Prep in Phoenix, came up with five clutch digs.  Preach, the Gatorade Player of the Year in the 2008/09 and 2009/10 seasons, is off to a flying start in Tempe.

The Cats came out strong in the overtime session, saving their best for last as they posted a .478 attack percentage to win the decisive set, 15-10.   Owens put down seven kills for a .727 attack percentage.

Owens, the senior outside hitter from California, recorded her eighth-straight double-double, posting 23 kills and 23 digs on the night.

The Cats started the year with a No. 18 national ranking, but fell out of the top 25 before the first half of the Duel in the Desert.  But they came into yesterday’s match-up with their rivals ranked No. 23.

The win against unranked ASU may give them a nudge in the rankings, but the Cats may have to wait until their meetings with Oregon and Oregon State next weekend in Tucson to see any movement.

ASU will take on University of California Riverside Sunday in Riverside.