Rubio looks to take steps toward contention
The Arizona volleyball team prepares before a game during the 2013-14 season. UA volleyball head coach Dave Rubio aims to improve upon last season’s 21-13 record.
Arizona volleyball returns five seniors and eight players overall from last season’s effort, which saw the squad earn an NCAA Tournament berth. The UA finished last year with a 21-13 record but saw its season end after dropping three consecutive sets against San Diego in the Round of 32.
This year, the Wildcats open their season in Green Bay at the Wisconsin Tournament, facing off against South Dakota on Aug. 29 before taking on Green Bay and Kansas the following day.
The UA will host two tournaments this fall: the Arizona Invitational and Wildcat Classic. The Invitational is scheduled to take place from Sept. 5-6 in the newly renovated McKale Center. The Classic will occur the weekend of Sept. 19.
“I really have a special group of terrific young ladies,” volleyball head coach Dave Rubio said. “I can’t remember, if ever, I’ve had a group as willing and committed to working hard every day [and] not making excuses. I look forward to walking into the gym every day with them.”
Rubio explained that the team has a good blend of both young and old talent. While he said he’d still like the team to be better and sharper, they’re still a little sloppy at times. Rubio added that the team will solidify more as it starts to see live competition later this month.
“We’re going to take last year’s experience and keep that close to us. We didn’t like the way it ended,” UA senior libero Ronni Lewis said. “We’re going to use that as a motivating factor and try to stay together more as a team. One goal in mind — I think that’s a huge part of being successful — having the whole team together and in it. I think it will really drive us forward.”
As a junior, Lewis played an integral part on the team and was on the court in all of the Wildcats’ 34 matches, only missing three of the team’s 118 sets. She ended the year with 257 digs, 73 assists, 11 service aces and four kills.
Senior outside hitter Taylor Arizobal said that the team has been recently focusing on individual work, taking everything it learned last year and improving upon it.
“It’s really nice to see other people getting their work done individually and then finally bringing it all together as a team,” Arizobal said. “Last year, we did a lot of double days where we worked in groups [with different positions], but this year, the coaches have been doing a really great job at breaking it down.”
Last season, Arizobal amassed 209 kills, 87 blocks, 86 digs, 12 service aces and seven assists over 112 of Arizona’s 118 sets played.
While Arizona has been pegged to finish ninth in the conference, according to the Preseason Pac-12 Coaches Poll released earlier this month, senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon thinks the team’s potential is much greater than what’s being projected.
“We’re definitely working a lot harder this year,” Kingdon said. “We deserve to be higher than ninth in the conference, so we just have to show everyone what we’re made of and come out strong.”
Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17