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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Volleyball advances to second round of NCAA tournament

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Owen Forest

Arizona volleyball outside hitter Madi Kingdon (9) spikes the ball past the Yale defense during Arizona’s 3-0 sweep against Yale during the first round of the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship in McKale Center on Thursday. Kingdon and the Wildcats advanced to face BYU in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Friday at 5:30 p.m. in McKale Center.

No. 11 Arizona volleyball swept the Yale Bulldogs in a three-set affair (25-12, 25-17, 25-19) in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, capitalizing on the McKale Center home court advantage.

The Wildcats opened strong against the Bulldogs in the first two sets, consistently taking large leads and gathering momentum behind the crowd.

“I thought it was nice to play at home,” UA head coach Dave Rubio said. “That makes a very nerve-racking beginning a little bit more comfortable for us. I thought we really played within ourselves.”

Senior standout and outside hitter Madi Kingdon led the Wildcats with a double-double of 18 kills and 14 digs. Fellow outside hitter Taylor Arizobal added seven kills and seven digs, while libero Ronni Lewis had 11 digs.

Yale head coach Erin Appleman applauded Kingdon’s performance and said that it was tough to play at the same level as the Wildcats.
“I thought we played really tough tonight,” Appleman said. “The Pac-12 [Conference] is definitely a different level of volleyball than we are used to seeing, and Madi [Kingdon] was really good tonight.”

For the Bulldogs, outside hitter Mollie Rogers had a team-high 10 kills, and setter Kelly Johnson added seven kills as well. Yale also hit a season-low .076 for the match.

During the third set, the Wildcats started off slow, falling behind 6-3 before calling a time out to refocus.

“It took us a little while to execute better,” Rubio said. “Their one server really gave us some trouble; I think it was No. 7. Their sub went in, and we didn’t handle her serve very well, and she scored a lot of points when she was serving, so there [are] certainly areas that we can get better in.”

Arizona was able to regain its focus behind a crowd that provided energy for the Wildcats. From that point on, Arizona went on a 22-13 run to secure the victory.

“It’s way more fun to play in front of a big crowd like that,” Kingdon said, “and it’s the biggest crowd that I have ever seen here, so it was exciting to see.”

Up next, the Wildcats will face a physical BYU volleyball team that swept its opponent Seton Hall earlier on Thursday afternoon before the UA/Yale game. BYU has an overall record of 26-4 and 16-2 in the West Coast Conference.

“BYU is certainly a team that, if they were playing in our conference, I feel would be a top-four team,” Rubio said. “They have the size, the experience, the ball handling — and so the good news is that we are used to playing at that level.”

Arizona is 10-0 in NCAA play in McKale Center, an added bonus for the upcoming BYU match.

Rubio even channeled his inner Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez when talking about how much the crowd affects his team’s play.

“I know everybody is looking forward to the football game; I know I am as well,” Rubio said. “But if Rich Rodriguez were here right now, he would be telling them to go to the volleyball game first, and then turn on the sets and let’s watch us beat Oregon. The bigger the crowd, the better for us.”

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