Kingdon, UA volleyball open season 6-0

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Kyle Hansen | The Daily Wildcat Kyle Hansen / The Daily Wildcat during Arizona's 3-0 win against CSUN during the Arizona Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014 at McKale Memorial Center.

No. 23 Arizona volleyball swept the Arizona Invitational this weekend after defeating Alabama State, Loyola-Chicago and Cal State Northridge over nine straight sets to improve to 6-0 on the season — marking the best start for the Wildcats since 2009 when they began 12-0.

“I felt like we played really clean and smooth,” UA sophomore setter Penina Snuka said. “In practice, we’ve been working on just tightening up little things, and I think that really came together this weekend.”

Friday’s matches against Alabama State and Loyola-Chicago marked the first games to occur in the newly renovated McKale Center. Steady crowds of fans filled the renovated arena to watch Arizona dispatch both teams in straight sets, 25-19, 25-9, 25-8 and 25-14, 25-15 and 25-21, respectively.

Cal State Northridge couldn’t handle Arizona’s offensive onslaught and renowned defense and fell in straight sets (25-16, 25-21, 25-22) to Arizona. While each of the sets were back and forth, the Wildcats came out on top and overwhelmed the Matadors with 50 kills in the match. The UA out-dug CSUN 53-51 while out-blocking it 7-3.

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“They were well-coached, have good talent and are experienced,” UA head coach Dave Rubio said. “I think that the team is going to be in contention to win the Big West. We had to do everything we could to stay with them, so it was a good win for us.”

Loyola-Chicago went quietly in the first set, but continued to improve throughout the game. By the third set, the Ramblers made the Wildcats battle and threatened Arizona’s chance to sweep, tightening the score within two points. Arizona, however, held strong through the final stretch and was able to pull away with a 25-21 decision.

While Alabama State held control in the beginning of the first set, Arizona fought back and seemed to overwhelm the Hornets, holding them to a .103 hitting percentage in the first set, -.080 in the second set and -.143 in the third set.

Senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon continued her highly touted senior campaign after being named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week last Monday. On Saturday, Kingdon tied her season-highs of 23-kills and 15 digs and added a season-high three assists to go along with two blocks.

“For being the start of the season, I feel like we still have a lot we can work on,” Kingdon said, “but as far as the weekend goes, getting three wins that were sweeps — what more could you ask for?”

Injury report: Penina Snuka

Sophomore setter Penina Snuka did not start in Arizona’s match against Alabama State due to an ankle injury.

“So much of the offense is tempo-driven, and the setter is going to be the one who’s able to manage and drive that tempo,” Rubio said. “When you change the setters, you also change the rhythm of the offense.”

Rubio said that when she got hurt, it was clear to see it was awkward for the team, but that’s not to say they couldn’t make the necessary adjustments to combat the injury.

“As the match went on, I think Whitney [Hunt] did a good job,” Rubio said. “But it was certainly nice to have [Snuka] back out there on Saturday.”

After missing the first match on Friday, Snuka bounced back and compiled 23 assists and six digs against Loyola-Chicago and 36 assists and 13 digs — her fourth double-double of the season — in the matchup against the Matadors.

Rubio said that the trainers will continue to rehab Snuka’s ankle and that, hopefully, she will be back to full strength again by next week.

—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17


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