Yes: An early slip-up will teach the Wildcats a lesson
Arizona's volleyball team was disappointed after a hard loss against the UCLA Bruins in their first weekend of conference play, but they shouldn't be. Hopefully head coach Dave Rubio will make the best of the situation.
The Wildcats beat a top-15 USC squad a day prior, proving that this year's team can topple the best of them. But here's the question: When will they show up and when won't they?
At such an early point in the conference schedule, the loss is a well-timed wake-up call for the Wildcats, teaching them not to get overly hyped up after a win and to keep focused throughout the challenging conference schedule.
As they move forward, Rubio can point to that painful feeling after their sub-par UCLA match to remind his team that it cannot relax.
Think of it like a case of the Chicken Pox. Get it as a child, suffer and then find immunity.
Hopefully, the Wildcats can gain some immunity to losing their concentration and then dropping games after they pat themselves on the back after a hard-fought victory.
Now Arizona is aware of the trap it fell into against UCLA — that trap was overconfidence after a big win, resulting in a lack of focus on the game at hand. They can play with a sense of urgency because they know that without it, they'll get hammered by the other Pac-10 squads.
What if this wake-up call had come later in the season, too late for Rubio to be calm about back-to-back games in which his team played in the style of Jekyll and Hyde? If there's any time to drop a game in such irritating fashion, now is that time.
Nobody ever wants to lose, but no one is going to roll through the Pac-10, either. The four talented California teams will most likely bruise one another up, giving Arizona some room for error.
That room has shrunk after the UCLA loss, but the Wildcats are by no means without a chance at postseason play. All they have to do is learn from their blip — whether from overconfidence or lack of focus — and realize what they must accomplish to keep their heads above the net in the powerful Pac-10.
The Wildcats know they can beat top-tier teams like USC, and this weekend's experience will provide a lesson to be remembered for the rest of the season.
— Kevin Zimmerman
No: Arizona missed opportunity against UCLA
Playing in the Pacific 10 Conference is always tough, but it becomes tougher when missed opportunities slide by.
Over the weekend, then-No. 19 Arizona volleyball had the opportunity to stay perfect — both in the conference and in the season overall. They got past then-No. 13 USC on Friday, but their offense stalled on Saturday against then-No. 14 UCLA.
Although Arizona won the first set in the match against the Bruins, it allowed UCLA back into the game, giving up seven straight points after taking a 16-9 lead.
That momentum shift was something Arizona would not get over in the match. After the close ending to the second set, the Wildcats weren't the same — they didn't battle back.
OK, so a loss in one game isn't a huge deal. But what should concern Arizona was the lack of fire, spark and will to try to get back into the game. Each set is a new opportunity, and the Wildcats could have swung the momentum back after a heartbreaking call by the referees at the end of the second set.
The discrepancy between the line judge and the head referee could have motivated Arizona to get back into the game, play angry and get the match back in its court.
Instead, Arizona looked both mentally and physically defeated at the end of the match.
What the game really showed was the lack of scoring for the Wildcats. They only managed to post 14 points and 13 points in the third and fourth sets, respectively.
This loss has larger implications than just conference standings. The Wildcats could have taken the opportunity to make a statement, especially on their home court.
There will be other times when Arizona will get down early, and the key for them is how they will respond to adversity. All the talent and experience to make a difference is there, the opportunity just needs to be taken.
But when the Wildcats look back on this weekend at the end of the season, they will see the UCLA game as the one that got away. And in the Pac-10, any opportunity missed is an opportunity wasted.
— Nicole Dimtsios