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Rachel Rhoades paves way for Arizona volleyball success

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Rebecca Noble and | The Daily Wildcat

Rachel Rhoades (8) serves the ball at the beginning of UA’s 3-0 win against Loyola on Sept. 5, 2014 in McKale Center. Rhoades has 47 kills on the season and has played 29 sets in her senior season.

When Arizona volleyball senior middle blocker Rachel Rhoades sets her sights on completing a task on the court, few things get in her way — not even getting a volleyball slammed down onto her face.

This past weekend, in the Wildcats’ duel against Central Florida during the 26 West Longhorn Classic in Austin, Texas, that exact scenario happened.

Rhoades was hit hard in the face after Arizona overpassed the ball and UCF’s middle hitter nailed her in the jaw as she was standing at the 8-foot line, but she didn’t let that ruin her night.

“I just didn’t get my hands up quick enough,” Rhoades said. “I didn’t black out. I mean, I was stunned at first and kind of felt like my ears were bleeding, but I was able to make it through the game.”

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Rhoades finished the match with six kills, nine block assists, two solo blocks and a dig and possessed the highest hitting percentage (.417) among starters on the team. Earlier that day in the Wildcats’ game against Florida A&M, Rhoades hit a career-best .643 and tied her career-high of nine kills.

“She’s such a workhorse,” senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon said. “She gives 100 percent all the time and works hard both on and off the court to be a better player. When I’m struggling, she’s a person I can look at to boost my energy because she just has such a good personality and attitude no matter the situation.”

Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio called Rhoades “one of the most unique players he’s ever had,” and added that this season, she is playing the best volleyball she’s played since entering the program four years ago.

“Her willingness to come in and lay it on the line every day is special, and that’s one thing I really appreciate,” Rubio said. “She doesn’t take anything for granted, is very appreciative of what she gets here [and], as a result, has gotten significantly better every year.”

Rubio said that one of the reasons the team is doing well this year is because it has a lot of seniors.

“Seniors don’t question themselves in the heat of the moment,” Rubio said. “There’s no self doubt and they don’t lack confidence. It’s essential for us because when people [like Rachel] carry themselves with that level of confidence, it emanates to other players.”

When asked about what has given her the confidence and drive she consistently displays on the court, Rhoades pointed to one of her fondest team memories.

During her freshman year when Arizona swept UCLA — which at the time was ranked No. 2 in the country — Rhoades played an integral part in the victory. She contributed a team-high five blocks to go along with three kills as the Wildcats dispatched the Bruins in three consecutive sets.

“We weren’t supposed to win,” Rhoades said. “We just took that game by the horns and that was the first time I’d seen that happen and the first time I felt we really did something ‘groundbreaking for Arizona volleyball.’ Just to see that the underdog could beat a better team, it was inspiring [and] really gave me confidence for the rest of my years here [at] Arizona that something like that is possible and could happen at any time.”

—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17


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Updated November 30, 2021