Whipple sets up for success at Arizona
Arizona outside hitter Paige Whipple (10) tips the ball over the net during game three of the Cactus Classic against Radford on Sept. 2.
Arizona volleyball is in full swing and so is freshman outside hitter Paige Whipple. Whipple didn’t have high expectations when coming to Arizona, but found herself starting on the court for the Wildcats.
Growing up in Salem, Ore., Whipple had her mind set on being a soccer player until her mother Taffy Whipple, who played volleyball at Western Oregon, suggested that her daughter try hitting the ball with her hands rather than her feet.
“I was a soccer player and didn’t really want to try volleyball and then finally my mom convinced me to try it and I immediately fell in love with the game,” Whipple said. “I quit soccer and have played volleyball ever since.”
Whipple attended West Salem high school and explored basketball, softball and volleyball, but when her senior year came around she turned all her focus onto volleyball.
“My senior year I knew volleyball was my future,” Whipple said. “I needed to focus on training and doing whatever I can to prepare myself for the next level.”
Whipple progressed into a star player and currently holds her high school’s record for career kills, including posting 530 kills her senior year. Whipple was ranked the No. 27 recruit nationally by PrepVolleyball.com.
“It was really exciting,” Whipple said. “I heard about it and wondered if I was even in the running for that. When the numbers started coming out and got down to the 50’s I started questioning if I was even in this, but then to come out as No. 27 was really exciting and opened my eyes that people know who I am, the hard work that I’ve done and to be noticed. “
When Whipple started looking at colleges she knew she wanted to play for a Pac-12 Conference team. Growing up in Oregon, she was already familiar with the conference because she would attend Oregon State games.
College offers started to pour in for Whipple including Oregon State, Washington, Utah, Cal, USF, Eastern Washington, Portland, Portland State, UCF and the UA.
Arizona was on the bottom of Whipple’s list in terms of choices of places she wanted to go, but during her sophomore year of high school head coach Dave Rubio started to show a lot of interest in her skills. Whipple visited the UA and immediately knew this was where she was meant to be.
Throughout her junior and senior year Rubio would come watch her play to give advice on what to practice and focus on. Coming to Arizona and starting practices, Rubio has helped Whipple grow by breaking down fundamentals and encouraging her to do her best.
“I feel very fortunate to have a player of Paige’s skill, aptitude and ability at such a young age,” Rubio said. “She has been terrific and everything that we thought she would be and has met all of our expectations.”
While being a Wildcat, Whipple has already made her mark with posting a total of 46 kills in six games along with scoring 55.5 points. She is not far behind junior outside hitter Kendra Dahlke who has posted 57 kills scoring 66 points.
Coming to Arizona, Whipple had no expectations that she would play her freshman year, but says that she knew that if she came in and worked hard she would have the chance to contribute right away.
“It is really cool to have Kendra to look up to as a role model and strive to be like her,” Whipple said. “She has had a lot of success in the program and I hope to follow in her footsteps.”
This year the UA volleyball team has many young players that will have to work and stay be consistent to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
“We have a lot of potential in store, and I think it would be really exciting to see our team go to the playoffs and maybe even win the conference,” Whipple said. “I think we have a good chance of doing that with the group that we have.”
Whipple is still undecided in her major at the UA, but is looking at getting involved with special education because she enjoys working with special needs kids. Whipple has always found herself helping out with DLC program in high school and has always had a passion to help.
Whipple will be playing this weekend at McKale Center as the Arizona host the Wildcat Classic. The ‘Cats will take on the William and Mary Tribe Friday, Sept. 15 at 12:30 p.m.
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