Kalei Mau digs UA volleyball's stout defense

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Rebecca Noble | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona's Kalei Mau (10) spikes against California State Northridge on Saturday, Sept. 5. Mau has been one of the team's top defensive players.

From becoming a situational player after transferring from Minnesota last year to becoming one of the top two-way players in the Pac-12 Conference, Arizona volleyball outside hitter Kalei Mau is learning that the sky is the limit.

“Last year was a transition year and a great learning year for her, and now she is taking what she went through in the spring and starting to apply to this fall season,” said Arizona volleyball coach Dave Rubio. 

“I like what she is doing this season. She still has a long way to go to be an efficient player for us, but she’s got some real athleticism and she is shouldering a big load for us.”

The hitter from Kahaluu, Hawaii, won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week to start the season on a high note.

Led by Mau, the Wildcats boast one of the Pac-12’s stingiest defenses, allowing a hitting percentage of only .076.

After tallying 28 digs all of last season, Mau accumulated 31 digs against SMU and tied for the fifth-highest single game total in school history. 

She also became the third Arizona player with over 30 digs in a four-set match.

Mau is becoming a better offensive player for the Wildcats, too, as she currently leads the team in kills, while ranking eighth in the conference in points per set and digs per set. 

The Wildcats are on the right track as a team, but Mau believes she has room to improve. She noted that she loves the position she is in with Rubio and her teammates.

“There [are] so [many] more things I can improve with my game, but probably scoring from the back row,” Mau said about what she needs to improve on most. 

“This is my first time playing all rotation and I have never had a coach trust me to play back row, so this is a big deal for me to make plays and score points. The main thing for me is to be smart about the attacks I choose when I am hitting in the back row.”

Mau was a key player for the Wildcats last weekend at the Arizona Invitational, when they swept South Dakota, Florida A&M and Cal State Northridge to extend their winning streak to six. The winning weekend also improved Arizona’s national ranking to No. 13. 

The junior led the team in kills in all three of those games, including a career-high 15 against Cal State Northridge.

Mau will look to once again lead the Wildcats when they travel to Brooklyn, New York, this weekend for the Blackbird Invitational. The tournament includes a date with Ohio State, which is currently ranked No. 15 in the nation.

For Mau, it will be another opportunity to display her already impressive game, and to continue to improve.


Follow Ivan Leonard on Twitter.


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