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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Arizona upsets No. 6 California

    Arizona middle blocker Jacy Norton stretches to smack the ball over the net during a 3-0 loss to No. 2 Stanford Saturday in McKale Center. The Wildcats split a pair of home matches against top-10 opponents as they beat No. 6 California 3-2 on Friday night.
    Arizona middle blocker Jacy Norton stretches to smack the ball over the net during a 3-0 loss to No. 2 Stanford Saturday in McKale Center. The Wildcats split a pair of home matches against top-10 opponents as they beat No. 6 California 3-2 on Friday night.

    The Wildcats have been on an emotional rollercoaster week after week as their performance in practice didn’t reflect in games: they were just building up to a performance like this.

    The Arizona volleyball team (14-10, 4-8 Pacific 10 Conference) split the weekend with two top-10 teams. It beat No. 6 California 3-2 (25-22, 25-18, 18-25, 23-25, 15-11) Friday night and lost to No. 2 Stanford in three straight sets (23-25, 19-25, 16-25) on Saturday.

    The Wildcat players have sounded like a broken record up to this point in the season when they talked about relaxing on the court, but it finally happened. And who better to step it up against than a top-10 team?

    Having to work on staying relaxed sounds like an oxymoron, but UA sophomore setter Paige Weber said the team has been doing just that everyday in practice and warm-ups, and it really showed Friday night.

    “”We were just focused on talking, being happy and staying relaxed in practice – even when it wasn’t going right, and it worked for us,”” Weber said. “”(Cal was) doing what we normally did – they were tight, they had all the pressure – we were just playing.””

    The setter racked up 45 of the total 60 sets and contributed 10 digs in the match.

    UA head coach Dave Rubio agreed with Weber and said Friday’s match was the result of the squad’s recent light-hearted practices.

    “”The focus of last week’s prep was allowing the kids to have fun and play with some enthusiasm and just take the pressure off them completely,”” Rubio said. “”It was fun.””

    Sophomore Tiffany Owens led the team with 17 kills on a .255 hitting percentage and 19 digs against Cal (20-4, 10-3). Redshirt sophomore Whitney Dosty wasn’t far from Owens with 15 kills of her own.

    Saturday night’s match against Stanford (21-3, 12-1) wasn’t as fortunate for the Wildcats as the night before, but certain plays seemed quicker and sharper than usual on both nights. The team’s slides were as crisp as they’ve ever been for this year’s team.

    “”We’ve been working hard on the slide this last week and we got some positive results from that this weekend,”” Rubio said. “”Our passing was outstanding and our serving was really good in the Cal match, too.””

    Wildcat coaches and players said the team performed at a very high and consistent level Friday night and everyone showed up to the match with their game face on.

    Weber explained the team’s relaxation further, with reference to last weekend’s match in Tempe, which Arizona lost 3-0.

    “”When we played ASU, we felt like we had to win so we played really tight,”” Weber said. “”And when you play tight the mistakes just manifest themselves – you don’t have to do anything, they just happen.””

    This idea translated to Saturday when senior Randy Goodenough discussed her disappointment with the loss to Stanford.

    The Wildcats didn’t “”play the same volleyball”” as Friday and there were too many errors on their side of the net, the right-side hitter said.

    “”Volleyball now is basically who can come out and be as aggressive as possible without making errors, and I think Stanford is doing that very well right now,”” Goodenough said. “”They seem to be playing in a comfortable spot where they don’t make very many errors. They’re very aggressive and they’re very smart.””

    When the Wildcats are on they do the same thing, but the Cardinal simply out-played them, she said.

    Goodenough led the team with 13 kills and seven digs against Stanford. Owens contributed six and five, respectively.

    Rubio was uncertain as to why the squad performed differently the two nights, but put his opinions of the past, present and future in perspective.

    “”Whether that was a product of a five-game match the night before or coming in and playing against a great team (Saturday), who knows?”” Rubio said. “”The only thing I know is that we had struggled mightily in the last couple weeks as everyone knows, and for us to come in and split against the No. 2 and No. 6 team in the country, I think, shows a lot about the team and their character.””

    The head coach said a key for his team is to continue to get better with each competitor it faces regardless of its rank, but still managing to maintain the much-talked about carefree mindset.

    “”This is a coaching cliché, but if we can just not worry about the end result anymore and just worry about that moment then I think we’ll be in pretty good shape,”” Rubio said.

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