No. 20 Arizona volleyball will close out the nonconference season while fighting to stay undefeated at home when it takes on Coppin State, Tulane and UMBC in the Wildcat Classic this weekend in McKale Center.
The Wildcats (8-1) are slated to face off against Coppin State and Tulane on Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, and will close out the weekend against UMBC on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
Arizona has never faced Coppin State (5-5) or UMBC (4-5) in its history and has only played Tulane once. The last match between the Wildcats and the Green Tide occurred in 2009 in McKale Center when the UA defeated Tulane, 3-0.
“The teams who are coming in [this weekend] aren’t going to be like Texas,” UA head coach Dave Rubio said. “That’s not to say they won’t be valuable competition. Last year, Tulane was 29-3 — they were outstanding.”
However, this season, the Green Wave comes to Tucson with a 1-8 record. Tulane enters the tournament fresh off its first win of the year after it defeated Southeastern Louisiana in consecutive sets as part of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Classic.
While UMBC started the season hot, winning its first four games, the Retrievers have suffered losses in each of their past five matches. This past weekend, UMBC was swept in straight sets by Eastern Michigan and Coppin State.
“What I try to do in terms of scheduling is really mixing teams, and where they are — mid-majors versus teams that are really competitive and top-25 level,” Rubio said.
By doing this, Rubio said he hopes those on his team will be able to reflect after facing an elite program in a game, a situation where things may not have gone their way, and learn from their past experiences to adjust their gameplay accordingly.
“We’ll be more focused on our mental state and just making sure we take of the things that we can control, rather than worrying about what the other team is doing,” UA senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon said.
Senior middle blocker Rachel Rhoades said that this season, more so than in years past, the program feels like it has the power to really accomplish something special.
“I’m ready for us to turn it up,” Rhoades said. “This weekend gives us a good opportunity to come out strong and gives us the chance to enter Pac-12 [Conference] play with motivation.”
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