Volleyball looks to upset No. 2 Texas

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Kyle Hansen | The Daily Wildcat Kyle Hansen / The Daily Wildcat during Arizona's 3-0 win against Alabama State University at McKale on Friday, Sep. 5, 2014. It was the volleyball team's first home game in the newly renovated McKale Center.

No. 21 Arizona volleyball travels to Austin, Texas, this weekend to compete in the 26 West Longhorn Classic.

The Wildcats (6-0) open the tournament with their first real test of the season against No. 2 Texas on Friday at 5 p.m. MST. Arizona will also play two matches on Saturday against Florida A&M and Central Florida at 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively.

“Texas will be the first team [we face] that actually has physical advantage over us,” UA head coach Dave Rubio explained. “My hope is that we can function [at] a level that’s going to make them have to play perfect volleyball. I’m expecting that they could physically overwhelm us. I just want us to get in the game and allow our ability to function keep us in rallies and put ourselves in the position to win.”

The Longhorns (4-0), who last won the NCAA Championship in 2012, have been constant fixtures in the AP Top 25 at least for the past decade. Texas has long been considered as one of the premier collegiate volleyball programs in the country.

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Texas enters the tournament fresh off a 3-1 win over No. 11 Florida State in Tallahassee. Last weekend, the UA made quick work of Alabama State, Loyola-Chicago and Cal State Northridge, dispatching each of their opponents in straight sets to sweep the Arizona Invitational.

“[Texas] has big powerful hitters, but that’s similar to what we see in the Pac-12 [Conference] all the time,” senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon said. “We’ve really focused on serving and passing, which are big keys to winning matches. I think those are areas where we can beat our opponents this year.”

While the Wildcats have never faced Florida A&M or UCF, the UA possesses a 6-2-1 all-time advantage over Texas. The last time the Wildcats faced off against the Longhorns was in the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament in Tucson when the UA defeated Texas 3-2. Arizona has won each of the last five games in the all-time series.

“I’m just going into it with an open mind,” Kingdon said. “We’ve been preparing really hard for them, and obviously they’re going to be stiff competition. We just need to go into it thinking that they’re just like every other team we scout and not get nervous about playing a higher-ranked school. Going into it with a good mentality is going to be really important for us.”

Senior libero Ronni Lewis said that she’s hoping and expecting the Wildcats to go into the weekend full throttle and give it everything they’ve got.

“The better team will win,” Lewis said. “I just hope we can go out there, lay it all on the line and come out with no regrets.”

—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17


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