If the Arizona volleyball team wants a shot at making the playoffs, they will have to win their final two matches on the road against No. 15 Washington State. The Wildcats’ record currently sits at 9-10. They faced USC and lost the first match.
When it came time to play the second match, USC did not have enough players due to injury. The game was canceled and it did not count as a forfeit, which would have pushed the Wildcats’ record to 10-10. Head coach Dave Rubio felt that if it were any other year, they would have gotten the win.
“If it were a normal year, then it would have counted as a forfeit,” Rubio said. “In a normal year, they would have most likely played the match because they had enough players to play the match. It was unfortunate for us because we really needed to play that match.”
That match is in the past now, and the Wildcats must look to the future. Washington State is one of the best teams in the conference. Rubio did not shy away from discussing what makes them a great team.
“The thing about Washington State is they are physical, athletic, and they are experienced,” Rubio said. “They have a really talented roster, but they've been out too. They canceled [matches] two weekends in a row … so the question is who is going to be the personnel [that we will face] when we play Washington State.”
No matter what players take the court for Washington State, it will be the biggest test the Wildcats have faced so far. Kamaile Hiapo thinks that the pressure may get to some of the younger players.
“It is a lot to ask our young team,” Hiapo said. “All we need to do is be committed to winning. We have to be all in and just go for it because we have nothing to lose, so we might as well just win.”
To win, you must understand your opponent’s game. Watching film is a way to gain an advantage against your opponent, and Hiapo spends a lot of her time doing this.
“Film is very important. I love watching film,” Hiapo said. “I watch film on myself, and I watch film on other teams. It is really important to watch film on yourself from past games to know what you need to work on or what you could have done better.”
Hiapo feels watching film takes away all the distractions and outside noise that could prevent a player from improving.
“Film and statistics take out all the emotions of the game,” Hiapo said. “It just puts it all in black and white and shows you what you need to do to win.”
Earlier in the interview, Hiapo spoke about how the younger players may be asked to do a lot without having experienced much. However, after the reporter laid out a case that being a young team is not a disadvantage and that it is dangerous to underestimate this team, Hiapo had a change of heart.
“Even if we are the underdogs, I have been an underdog my whole life,” Hiapo said. “I would not have been able to get all the accolades that I [have received]. Pac-12 Freshman of the Week two times in a row last year, AVCA and Under Armour high school All-American. I would not have gotten any of those accolades if I did not play with an underdog team, so I think that is a positive thing for everyone on this team.”
Arizona will play Washington State in their final two matches of the year at Bohler Gym beginning Thursday, April 1 at 6 p.m. MST.
Follow Sean Fagan on Twitter