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Defense keeps the volley alive

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Alan Walsh | The Daily Wildcat Alan Walsh / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Although the excitement in a volleyball game usually stems from the energetic kill, for some members of the Arizona team, the rush comes from preventing that point.


Seniors Jacy Norton and Alanna Resch are the defensive walls of No. 21 Arizona volleyball and have played big in the Wildcats non-conference schedule.

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Resch, Arizona's libero — the defensive specialist of a volleyball team — has recorded 57 digs so far this season. Her primary job is to defend the spike off the opponent's hitter, hitting the ball back up to set up a Wildcat kill.


Meanwhile, Norton has to literally step up for Arizona. As the middle blocker, she has the task of preventing the kill from coming over the net. She has tallied 31 blocks this season in addition to six digs and is known as ""Arizona's Roof"" at home games.


While setting up the attack is crucial to win games, being able to turn opponent's attacks into side-outs can change the flow of the game. Unlike the attack, the defense is less about repetition and more about knowing the field of play.


""They (coaches) tell us and the blockers, which angles and which line to take away when we're hitting,"" Resch said about defensive preparation. ""It makes defense a little easier for us because we know which (lines) the blocker will be taking away so we know which part of the court we need to defend.""


The coordination of the blockers at the net and the libero in the backcourt has a big impact on how the attack is set up. If the block goes awry, the play can be doomed from the beginning. Norton and Resch however, have meshed well.


""Those two seniors have been playing like you want them to play. They're playing like seniors; they're playing at a very high level,"" Rubio said of Norton and Resch  ""They're real consistent day in and day out — whether it is at practice or in a match.""


The experience of the women has also led to their improvement. Unlike the underclassmen, the seniors have had their goals  change throughout their time at Arizona. After a disappointing end to the 2008 season, one of the Wildcats' hopes this season was to improve their winning consistency.


""We didn't do very well on the road last year,"" Resch said. ""We're going to make it a point to do a lot better on the road this year.""


Although Arizona has had successful seasons in the past, neither Norton nor Resch have experienced postseason play. Because of the Wildcats' absence from the NCAA Tournament in recent years, the experience that they have gained throughout their time at Arizona has helped shape the team to win now.


The team's consistency is something that has been forming over the course of the non-conference season for Arizona. As far as the coaching staff is concerned, the team's identity is one that is very promising.


""The aspects of the game have been very solid. We're very low error. We're a team that manages those errors very well,"" Rubio said about the role of defense in Arizona's play.


Keeping the ball alive is the key for the seniors of Arizona volleyball. If they want to experience that postseason play they have longed for, both Resch and Norton will have to keep the ball and Arizona's winning record from falling to the ground.

 


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Updated September 21, 2021