No. 23 Arizona hosts No. 1 USC in key Pac-12 matchup
The Arizona volleyball team huddles together in McKale Center against Washington on Sunday, Nov. 8. The Huskies swept the Wildcats 3-0 for the second time this season at the NCAA tournament regional semi-final.
Arizona volleyball returns home for a weekend of competition, taking on No. 1 USC tonight and No. 11 UCLA on Sunday. The No. 23 Wildcats pulled out a five set win on the road last week against Utah, but were swept by Colorado on Saturday.
Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said he made changes to what they focused on in practice after the loss and has been working to get his team in a good rhythm, good frame of mind and feeling confident about how they are playing.
With just four games left in the season, it is crunch time for Arizona. With a 17-11 record overall and a mediocre 7-9 record in Pac-12 Conference play, Arizona is on the bubble in regards of getting into the NCAA Tournament. Though ranked No. 23 in the Coaches Poll, the Wildcats’ RPI ranking stands at 50.
Their inability to beat a top-ranked opponent this season plays a large factor in the RPI, but getting a win this weekend should secure Arizona a spot in the tournament.
Rubio still said his team is not feeling the pressure in crunch time.
“We never really talk about what’s at stake or what they need to do,” Rubio said. “I think for us, it’s not anything about the pressure or anything like that. It’s about our ability to execute and our ability to play well against the next opponent.”
In Arizona’s earlier matchups against UCLA and USC in Los Angeles, the Wildcats pushed the No. 1 ranked team in the country to four sets. However, Arizona was swept by UCLA and Rubio said it was one of the worst performances his team had this season.
Though the Wildcats played poorly in their last matchup against UCLA, unable to get into a consistent rhythm, the loss had to do with the Bruins’ dominate outside hitters Jordan Anderson and Reily Buechler. It will be essential for the Wildcats to contain Anderson and Buechler as much as possible to come out with a win this weekend.
“They certainly had their way with us,” Rubio said. “Our hope is that we play better and execute the scouting report and the plan against them.”
Rubio said it will be important for his team to match the Trojans offensively.
“We’re going to have to match their scoring if we’re going to stay with them,” Rubio said. “That means we’re going to have to pass well, that means our attackers are going to have to pick good attack lines and we’re going to have to be really aggressive.”
In spite of all the craziness going on as the season closes, Arizona has one player going for a monumental milestone. Penina Snuka, who has already become the sixth player in Arizona history to have 3,000 assists and is up to 3,549 for fifth in Arizona history, is just 18 digs away from becoming the Wildcats’ all-time leader in digs by a setter.
Dana Burkholder, who had 1,146 in her career as a Wildcat, holds the current record. Snuka is reaching all of these records as a junior and still has another season to break and set more records. She currently leads the Pac-12 with 1,100 assists and is tied for the most double-doubles with 17.
Even with Snuka going for history and the team fighting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament, all of Arizona’s focus right now is in taking down the No. 1-ranked team in the country, USC.
Tonight’s match will begin at 6 p.m. and Sunday’s game with UCLA will start at noon. Both matchups will be available to stream on Arizona Athletics’ website.
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