Penina Snuka setting UA Volleyball up for success

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Rebecca Noble | The Daily Wildcat

Sophomore setter Penina Snuka (20) sets the ball during UA’s 3-0 win against Loyola University Chicago in McKale Center on Friday. Snuka is coming back from an injury and has regained her status as the team’s primary setter.

Some elite athletes were simply drawn to their respective sport from a young age, fully committed to the sport and tried to be the best player that they could be. Others, like Arizona volleyball player Penina Snuka, found their perfect fit by chance and maybe a little bit of coaxing from their parents.

“My parents are definitely the ones who pushed me into playing volleyball,” Snuka said. “They’ve been there for me every step of the way and one of the big reasons why I came to Arizona was so they would be able to see me play as much as possible.”

Flash back to 2006, when Snuka was living with her family in Kentucky. She was in sixth grade at the time, running late for school, when she heard a PA announcement that volleyball tryouts would be later that day.

At first, Snuka said she was reluctant, and recalled that if it had been up to her, she probably wouldn’t have gone to those tryouts.

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“My parents pretty much forced me to go to them because I was a lazy kid,” Snuka said. “I was the one [in the family] who never wanted to do anything. I always just wanted to kind of stay at home and sleep or eat.”

But as soon as the volleyball hit off her hands that afternoon, she knew she had found her passion.By the time Snuka was a senior in high school, she had developed into one of the top 50 volleyball players of her class in the nation.

Snuka entered the Wildcats’ program as a highly touted setter, living up to her hype and putting together a breakout freshman campaign comprised of two Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors, a conference All-Freshman Team selection and AVCA All-Region honorable mention.

She ended the year as the only Wildcat player to see action in all 118 sets of the season, finishing fifth in the conference in assists with 10.14 per set while leading the Pac-12 in double-doubles and finishing second among freshmen nationally in that category.

“Penina is just a little firecracker,” senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon said. “She’s really fun to play with and brings a great energy to our team. I’ve played against her since I was in high school and to tell you the truth, I hate playing against her, but I love playing with her. I think that’s really the best compliment you can give someone.”

This season, Snuka shows no signs of slowing down. The 5-foot-6 sophomore has already made waves for the UA and has amassed four double-doubles over Arizona’s first six matches. She leads the team and has averaged 10.94 assists and four digs per set this year.

“Penina has improved dramatically from her freshman year and has evolved from being just a good athlete in the setters position to being a great athlete,” Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio said. “Not a lot of people can play that position and a lot of people just don’t have the right brain for it.”

Rubio explained that in order to succeed as a setter, you’ve got to have the personality and the traits that go into it, like selflessness, leadership skills and the ability to multitask. The other part is understanding what it takes intellectually from a set selection and fundamental standpoint and having the skills to be able to deal with that and really control the offense.

“You really have to be a giving-type player to [succeed] in that position,” Rubio said.

—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (12/8)
669 11 1.6%
Total (8/2)
66,070 1,065 1.6%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated December 8, 2021