University of Arizona volleyball team's head coach Dave Rubio held a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
It has been tough sledding for Arizona to start the season as its first six matches have come against perennial Pac-12 powerhouses No. 10 Utah, No. 11 Washington and No. 7 Stanford.
The Wildcats lost six of those matches with four coming in straight sets.
Rubio is optimistic that his young squad can turn the tide and salvage their slow start to the season.
“Our record isn’t what [we] certainly like it to be,” Rubio said. “Every day I go into practice, I know when we are going to be one of the elite teams. It’s just a matter of when it’s going to happen. I’m not too worried about whether or not we’re going to be good later on.”
Here are some key takeaways from the rest of the press conference.
Rubio delivers high praise for Oregon
After upsetting defending national champion Stanford in a sweep at home for the first time since 2005, Arizona could not retain that lightning in a bottle as they fell flat in Eugene.
The Ducks’ lethal offensive attack became too much to overcome for the Wildcats as they would get swept in the series. Despite the disappointing sweep, Rubio didn’t hesitate to tip his hat off to Oregon.
“Oregon is a very experienced team,” Rubio said. “They brought back just about every starter from last year’s team. Overall, they are significantly better than they were last year and way more physical.”
The Ducks pose a viable threat in the conference this year as they seek their first-ever Pac-12 title in school history. They took a step in the right direction by sweeping Arizona in convincing fashion this past weekend. Rubio said that he wished that he would have strategized his tactics differently in order to get the best from his young and inexperienced squad.
“Against our team that is young and inexperienced, there’s some tactical things that I would do differently in the very first match,” Rubio said. “The unfortunate part about that, in the second match, I felt we were in a better position to compete. I thought we did a good job against them in the first set, then disappointedly rolled over and didn’t play well in the second set. It’s always a lot of suffering going on whenever you lose and certainly when you don’t feel like you’re competitive.”
Rubio looking forward to Oregon State matchup
For this year’s Arizona squad, it was a monumental task having to open the season against the top teams in the Pac-12. The young team is still learning how to play and mesh together on the court despite limited practices and game experience thanks to the pandemic.
Arizona won’t be taking Oregon State lightly in this weekend’s matchup, a team that currently sits about even with the Wildcats in conference standings.
“Oregon State presents a different system that we’re not used to seeing,” Rubio said. “Today was primarily a day we worked on prepping for Oregon State because they’re presenting things that we haven’t seen before. They have a great defense and set the middle like crazy. I think it’s going to be a fun and entertaining match, and we just hope it’s really competitive.”
Even with this weekend’s matchup being at home, Arizona understands that the Beavers will not be a walk in the park as they will have to be ready for anything that they throw their way.
Freshman Jaelyn Hodge has a promising future ahead of her
Freshman outside hitter Jaelyn Hodge was part of a strong recruiting class this year for Arizona. She has already posted an impressive stat line of 52 kills and 14 digs in her first eight games. Rubio couldn’t help but gush over his star recruit and still can’t believe that she’s on the team.
“It’s been unusual for us to get a player of that talent,” Rubio said. “Typically those players are going somewhere else. It’s really rare that we get a player like that from in-state.”
Rubio continued his high praise for Hodge by even comparing her to some of the most coveted players in the program's history.
“Probably the biggest one would be a mixture of Kim Glass and Jennifer Abernathy,” Rubio said. “Those are two of the best examples of the speed, quickness, acceleration and how high she’s touching when compared to both. That’s an amazing compliment because arguably the best outside hitter we’ve ever had was Kim Glass. Jaelyn fits right in that category between her and [Abernathy].”
The Wildcats face off against Oregon State on Friday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m. MST and again on Sunday, Feb. 21, at 1 p.m. MST. Both matches will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
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