Nicholson sets record in victorious weekend for Arizona volleyball
Senior libero Candace Nicholson reached a milestone over the weekend, becoming Arizona indoor volleyball’s all-time leader in digs at the Wildcat Classic tournament. Arizona (10-2) defeated Loyola Maryland on Friday and Wofford and UC Santa Barbara on Saturday.
Arizona swept the Loyola Maryland Greyhounds 3-0 in the first match. Sophomore middle blocker Olivia Magill led the team with 10 kills and contributed eight blocks. Freshman setter Penina Snuka continued her impressive play with 27 assists and seven digs. Junior outside hitters Madi Kingdon and Jane Croson combined for 17 kills, while Nicholson had a match high 17 digs.
The Wildcats trailed 2-1 in the first set, but with the help of a 9-0 run, the team went on to win 25-12. In the second set, the team started with a 4-0 lead, on the way to a 25-14 victory. Magill led the team with four kills, and Nicholson had seven digs in the third and final set, a 25-19 win for Arizona.
In the second match, the Wildcats defeated the Wofford Terriers 3-0. Arizona took the first set 25-16, the second 25-12 and the third 25-17. Nicholson had 14 digs, and Kingdon had a match high 13 kills, six digs and two blocks.
Ryan Revock / Arizona Daily Wildcat Candace Nicholson serves the ball against Wofford on Saturday.
“I think the hardest part for us is just staying focused,” Kingdon said. “I think our team is pretty solid just playing a team like them. I think it’s hard to stay focused.”
By Friday, the Wildcats will have played their fifth match in seven days.
“We’re trying to rest. We’re playing five matches in seven days, so we’re really trying to rest them as much as we can, as much as I feel comfortable. I would have liked to rest Madi (Kingdon) and Jane (Croson) a little bit more,” head coach Dave Rubio said.
The Wildcats overcame their toughest Wildcat Classic competition on Saturday, beating the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 3-2. The Wildcats won the first set 23-15, narrowly lost the second set 27-25, were defeated in the third set 25-15, won the fourth set 25-18 and barely got by in the fifth set 16-14. Kingdon led the way with a match high 22 kills and was named tournament MVP.
Nicholson had 16 digs and broke the UA’s all-time record of most career digs with 1,313. The record was previously held by Terry Lauchner, who had 1,297 digs from 1987-90.
“The record was set in 1990, I believe, before I got here,” Rubio said. “You’re talking about a 23-year-old record. That’s pretty exceptional. It proves her longevity and what she means to the team,” Rubio said.
Nicholson spoke about what the record means to her.
“I found out about two or three weeks ago. I knew a little bit about it, but it’s pretty cool. When I leave, it will be something left behind by me.”
Despite Nicholson’s accomplishment, the match proved difficult for Arizona. It was the first game this year that went all five sets.
“I knew they were going to give us fits,” Rubio said. “They’ve got some older kids that have been there a really long time, and those guys know how to play. Those Southern California kids have been playing volleyball since they were in their diapers,” Rubio said.
In the fifth set, the Wildcats found themselves down 14-11 and were on the verge of an upset defeat before they went on a 5-0 run to win the match.
“I think our team actually does a really good job at that,” said Kingdon. “When we were at Hawaii, that happened to us. We barely lost to them. I think our team is good at coming back from behind.”
The Wildcats start conference play Tuesday at 8 p.m. with a match at ASU.
—Follow Derek Evans @DerekEvans20