Underclassmen improve on court

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Simon Asher | The Daily Wildcat Arizona's Paige Whipple bumps the ball over the net during the UA-Utah game on Oct. 13. Whipple has played in 23 sets so far this season posting 49 kills overall.

Arizona volleyball is now eight games into their conference schedule, and the Pac-12 hasn’t been easy on the Wildcats as they sit with a record of 2-6.

Normally, it can be hard for underclassmen to see playing time on the court during their first season, but with such a young team Arizona head coach Dave Rubio has had to go to his freshman numerous times throughout the course of Pac-12 play.

Throughout Rubio’s 26 years at Arizona he has experienced many ups and down, but nothing in comparison to this season. Despite the lack of success so far from the team, Rubio sees them as the most talented team he’s ever coached, but being so young it will take time to develop. 

“I’ve never experienced anything like this that many times. In my younger years if we would’ve gone through this I would lose my mind. I wasn’t focused on the process but more winning that next match,” Rubio said. “I have this vision of our team and I know what it will take to get there, and I know it’s going to take time. I have become more patient and process oriented.”

The Wildcats are set up to be a great team for many years to come, but for now, Rubio and his young team will focus on the process, trying to get better each and every week.

“It is just hard to know when you are going to win and it is really about the process for us,” Rubio said. “Our talent cannot be denied, and eventually we will start to play better and more consistent.”

Rubio has noticed that this seasons freshman is more businesslike, focused and ready to improve to get better. 

Elizabeth Shelton

The 6’2” redshirt freshman outside hitter from California has seen action in 29 out of 30 sets thus far. She has 62 kills in that span, good for second most on the team, and has a .234 attack percentage. She has also been a force on the defensive side, adding two solo blocks and 14 block assists. Overall, she has 71 points. Her best performance was against Washington State, as she posted 13 kills to go along with three digs and two block assists.

Paige Whipple

The outside hitter from Salem, Oregon started her collegiate career as a true freshman and has played in 23 out of 30 sets, but has 49 kills overall, good for an average of 2.13 kills per set. She has 47 digs with an average of 2.04 digs per set, fifth best on the team. Whipple’s best performance came against California, a game in which she posted 11 kills, 12 digs and two block assists. 

Katie Smoot 

Out of San Mateo, California, the outside hitter/opposite has played in 26 of 30 sets, and has been well-rounded for the Cats. She has 16 kills out of 37 total attempts, and also has a service ace in a game against Stanford. Defensively, she has 11 digs and two block assists. Smoot saw her best game come against UCLA, a game in which she had five kills on five attempts, while also adding a dig and a block assist in two sets played.

Candice Denny

The 6’2” middle blocker out of Saratoga, California has seen her playing time increase as Pac-12 play goes along, playing in 21 of 30 sets. In that time, she has posted 39 kills on 72 attempts, with an attack percentage of .431. That .431 percentage is the best on the team. She also has one solo block and 14 block assists. Her best performance came against USC. She had 8 kills on 11 attempts, and also had three block assists. 

You can see the freshman in action on Wednesday, Oct. 18 as the Wildcats hit the road to take on the Oregon State Beavers at 7 p.m., followed by a match-up against No. 15 Oregon on Friday, Oct. 20 at 8 p.m.


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