Madi Kingdon jumped, raised her right arm, and quickly swatted at the ball.
It soared across the net at McKale Center, and by the time it deflected off a USC defender, out of bounds, she landed on her two feet.
Seconds later, Kingdon was back in the air, jumping, flinging her arms, and smiling from ear to ear.
This time, she landed, and 17 Wildcats surrounded her. The majority of a 1,292 person crowd was jumping, shouting and clapping, too.
“I was hoping it was good,” Kingdon said, “You always hope for that on the last kill.”
It was more than good.
The point was a walk-off — it sealed a 3-0 sweep (27-25, 25-21, 25-21) of the No. 1-ranked Trojans.
“Just seeing everyone run off the bench and just surround you is just the greatest feeling,” said Kingdon, who had a match-high 20 kills. “Especially sweeping them, them being No. 1. I wasn’t really expecting to sweep them, honestly, but I’m glad that we did.
“I think people are gonna start shaking in their boots when they play us now,” she added. “That’s the image we want.”
It was a game of firsts — the Trojans’ first Pac-12 loss of the season. The first time they fell behind 2-0 (and then 3-0) this year, and their first loss to the Wildcats since 2009.
Friday, the Wildcats swept UCLA, too.
“It certainly is going to give us a lot of confidence,” Arizona coach Dave Rubio said. “I think that when you’re a team, and a program, that hasn’t really been that relevant at the national level in a while it takes time to build that confidence. You need tangible proof that you can beat a team that’s that good.
“I don’t even remember the last time we swept the L.A. schools.”
It was 2001, Dave. That’s when the UA won the Pac-10 on the way to its first-ever Final Four.
With Sunday’s win, Arizona improved to 15-5 (5-3 Pac-12) on the year, and USC fell to 17-2 (7-1).
The NCAA Tournament is still a ways away, but for now, the Wildcats can revel in their upset win — the first over a No. 1 team in 20 years. The last one came in November 1993, in Rubio’s second year as head coach, against UCLA.
“Yeah,” he said, smiling, “I hope we don’t have to wait another 20 years.”
This one, at least, was wholly a team effort.
Kingdon was her usual, dominant self — particularly in the second set, when she had 10 kills; newcomers like freshman setter Penina Snuka (43 assists, 10 digs) and junior outside hitter Jane Croson (9 kills, 17 digs) might’ve played their best matches of the season —“Penina has been kind of living up to every expectation that I’ve had of her coming in,” Rubio said. “Jane was really engaged, and she played terrific. It was by far the best I’ve seen her play.”
But, Olivia Magill, a sophomore middle blocker, might have been the difference.
Magill doesn’t really like playing on Sundays, but she certainly didn’t mind this one. The first two sets were uneventful for her — four kills, one block.
“For some reason Sunday games are just harder for me mentally,” Magill said. “I just felt like I wasn’t really prepared.”
Then, in the third set, the Trojans came out firing and jumped to a 4-0 lead. After Rubio called a timeout, USC worked it to an 8-4 lead. Slowly, the Wildcats chipped away at the deficit, eventually knotting things up at 12-12.
“Today it was harder for her to get going,” Rubio said of Magill. “But she’s such a talent, so she really at the end, just really turned it on.”
She got a kill. 13-12.
She got another. 14-13.
Soon, another. 17-14.
“At that point, I was like ‘wow this game’s almost over, we’re winning, this could actually, really happen,” said senior libero Candace Nicholson.
Her next one gave Arizona its biggest lead of the set — 19-14.
After some back-and-forth, the Trojans got it to within three at 23-20. A Magill kill made it 24-20, and all but sealed it. USC got one more point, then Kingdon finished things off.
“My teammates and coaches really helped get me going, and I just feel like I needed to step up,” Magill said, “and I just wanted to win.”