No. 16 Arizona volleyball returns home for final three nonconference opponents including No. 2 Texas

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Rebecca Noble | The Daily Wildcat

Laura Larson (11) dives to hit the ball during a game against Cal State Northridge in McKale Center on Saturday, Sept. 5. Larson has 73 digs this year.

This weekend, Arizona volleyball concludes its slate of non-conference games with the Wildcat Classic.

Arizona opens play Friday with a 10 a.m. match against New Mexico State and a 7 p.m. meeting with No. 2 Texas before playing Savannah State at noon on Saturday.

Over the past weekend, Arizona traveled to Brooklyn, New York for the Blackbird Invitational, where it defeated Syracuse and LIU Brooklyn before losing to No. 13 Ohio State.

Even in the loss, volleyball coach, Dave Rubio feels there are some positives from the trip and that the team’s progression is showing.

“I thought the trip to New York was a good trip for us. It really revealed a lot of things about our team, and in the match against Ohio State, I thought we did a good job competing in that match, and it showed that we are maybe not as far away as I thought we were before we went on the trip,” Rubio said.

Arizona now faces an even bigger challenge in its Friday evening match with the No. 2 Texas Longhorns. UT is coming off a stellar 2014 campaign in which the program reached the NCAA Semifinals.

“We played Texas last year when they were ranked ... and that was a hard-fought game, but I can’t wait to get back out there,” said junior libero Laura Larson.

Larson is understandably hoping for a better outcome for the Wildcats as they were swept by the Longhorns last year in Austin, Texas.

“If we use our serves and take them out of system, I think that we will have a good chance of being able to be in the right place defensively,” Larson added.

The Longhorns will be the highest-ranked team to visit McKale Center since 2002. They are quite battle tested with victories over No. 4 Nebraska and No. 15 Colorado State, while their lone loss of the season came to No. 5 Florida.

The team is led by Chiaka Ogbogu, a junior middle blocker who has racked up numerous accolades such as 2015 Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year and 2014 AVCA First Team All-American.

The Wildcats are not going to overlook the team they play before the Longhorns, however, as New Mexico State is also a worthy opponent.

“This is their best team I’ve seen since [Mike Jordan has] been there; he’s done a fantastic job,” Rubio said. “He’s got a bunch of seniors.”

One player to be on the lookout for on the Aggies is senior middle blocker and Arizonan Gwen Murphy, who finished No. 6 last season in the WAC in total blocks with 114.

“She is just an absolute beast; big jumper, hard-hitting, well-skilled and just a really competitive young lady,” Rubio said.

All three of Arizona’s games will streamed online at pac-12.com.


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