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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


V-ball ready for life on road

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA victory over ASU Friday, Oct 1 at University of Arizona McKale Center

Arizona’s non-conference schedule helped prepare this year’s team, including several freshman, to get re-acclimated to the rigors of travel once conference play heats up.

Arizona (12-4, 1-2 Pacific 10 Conference) head coach Dave Rubio, now a 19-year veteran of Pac-10 play, knows how to prepare a team for the challenges it will face over the course of a season.

“”That was one of the things about the New Mexico State trip (last Sunday), which was really good for us,”” Rubio said. “”New Mexico State was very good, very physical, very much like a Pac-10 team from a physical standpoint. We had to go on the road, and we weren’t playing very sharp. But we still found a way to get the job done.””

For a few key contributors for Arizona, early this season was the first time they have had to travel and be able to balance school and volleyball at the same time.

“”Since (the Shamrock Invitational) was our first tournament, I really didn’t know what to expect when we travelled,”” said freshman middle blocker Maddie Lozano. “”It was nice to get that feeling, but it’s always going to be tough when you’re on the road.””

Libero is one of the toughest positions on the floor to adjust tofrom high school to college, and the first few weekends were a chance for Candace Nicholson — also a freshman — to make the necessary adjustments.

“”That first tournament really prepared me personally because I didn’t know what it was going to be like,”” said libero Candace Nicholson. “”Knowing how tiring it is — having to watch scouting reports pregame … it just shows you how hard it is and how rest is really important.””

Nicholson has adapted well. So far this season, she has racked up 133 digs, good for second on the team behind Tiffany Owens’ 157.

In the Shamrock Invitational, hosted by Notre Dame, Arizona passed its first road test of the season with a 2-1 record. In the three-game tournament, the Wildcats’ only blemish was a 3-2 loss to Cal Poly.

“”Those early season tournaments, and those heartbreaking losses we’ve had, it’s all about preparing (the players) for what we’re going to face during the season,”” Rubio continued. “”We’re hoping that some of that experience will come back and help us play better.””

Travelling isn’t the only adjustment newcomers to Pac-10 volleyball have to make. Even though Arizona competed against some talented teams before conference play, nothing can simulate going against top-notch opponents night in and night out.

“”The level of competition and how any team can beat anyone (have stood out),”” Nicholson continued. “”There’s not one team who’s really above and beyond anyone else.””

Nicholson’s head coach echoed some of the things that differentiate Pac-10 play from non-conference matches.

“”When you get into conference play, it just seems to be added stress,”” Rubio said. “”The teams tend to be better prepared, and you get an entire week to get ready for an opponent. The margin for winning and losing a match is super small. It’s miniscule.””

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