No. 16 Arizona volleyball hosts California and No. 1 Stanford this week in McKale Center as the Wildcats’ Pac-12 Conference season slate continues to heat up.
Arizona’s match against the Golden Bears (8-6, 0-4 Pac-12) will take place today at 7:30 p.m. with the duel between against top-ranked Cardinal (14-0, 4-0 Pac-12) scheduled for 8 p.m. on Friday. Tonight’s matchup will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.
The Wildcats (14-2, 3-1 Pac-12) return home after splitting a road trip up in Salt Lake City and Boulder, Colo. Arizona defeated Utah in straight-sets on Friday before getting swept 3-0 to Colorado on Sunday. The Wildcats couldn’t get anything rolling offensively and combined for an abysmal .165 hitting percentage over the weekend.
“We didn’t play very well against Colorado,” UA volleyball head coach Dave Rubio said. “We weren’t very emotionally tied into that match, and that really led to our inconsistencies. [This week,] we have to really focus on executing at a higher level.”
Even though Cal has yet to record an intra-conference win this season, Arizona won’t be able to sleep on the Golden Bears if it wants to emerge unscathed.
Cal has won each of the past seven showdowns with the Wildcats, including a three-set sweep of the UA last season.
Most recently, the Golden Bears fell in consecutive sets to Oregon State (25-23, 25-23, 25-18) and No. 11 Oregon (25-19, 25-21, 25-21), and arrive in Tucson hungry for their first Pac-12 victory.
Stanford, which has already claimed six victories over ranked opponents this year, looks to add a seventh to its resume when it faces the Wildcats on the road.
The Cardinal will provide the UA with a serious challenge and has only lost seven sets this season — two of which came when Stanford clawed its way to a five-set victory over then-No. 1 Penn State.
In its last outings, the Cardinal outlasted No. 11 Oregon over four sets (25-23, 25-16, 17-25, 25-17) before sweeping Oregon State (25-22, 25-19, 29-27).
Senior middle blocker Rachel Rhoades said the biggest thing the team needs to improve on going into this week’s matches is probably its serve receive and defense.
“We weren’t really able to put the ball away [at Colorado] because of that,” Rhoades said. “We just have to get the ball to our setter more often.”
While Stanford owns a 60-7 advantage in the all-time series record and Rubio holds just a 2-15 record against opponents who have been ranked No. 1, Arizona has recent experience in defeating a top-ranked team.
Last year, the Wildcats shocked the league when they swept then-No. 1 USC in Tucson.
This year, Arizona will look for lightning to strike twice when it faces the Cardinal.
“We try to take every win and loss as a learning experience,” UA senior libero Ronni Lewis said. “I think we’re all ready to kick butt on Wednesday and Friday. We’re tough, and we work hard. Mentally, we just need to not ever underestimate an opponent.”
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