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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona volleyball expecting freshmen to take on key roles

Kyle+Wasson%2FArizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0ALauren+Fuller%2C+No.+21%2C+and+the+UA+womens+volleyball+team+play+early+last+week+at+home.+
Kyle Wasson/Arizona Daily Wildcat Lauren Fuller, No. 21, and the UA womens volleyball team play early last week at home.

Last spring, Arizona volleyball experienced another disappointing end to the season, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season.

Expectations have been high for the Wildcats in past seasons, but the recent addition of multiple new players is making it hard to project what this team has to offer.

“One of the things that we saw is that we are a pretty good passing team,” said Dave Rubio, head coach of the volleyball team. “Defensively we’re pretty good, our blocking is okay and our serving needs to get a lot better.”

Arizona, one of the youngest teams in the conference, is sneaking under the radar. But only a few of the six returning players have playoff experience, which they will use to help ease the transition for the young newcomers.

“There is pressure, but I don’t feel it as much,” sophomore outside hitter Madi Kingdon said. “I was in the same position as the freshman last year where I had to step in right away and play. So I think I’m ready to be a leader.”

What the freshmen lack in experience, though, they make up for in height. The four freshman hitters on the roster average over six feet in height. Lauren Fuller, Alyse Hensley, Olivia Magill and Emily Bemis all need to use that height to their advantage if the UA is going to have any sort of growth this year.

“In order for us to be successful this year and to develop our team at a level where I think we’re capable of playing,” Rubio said, “it’s going to require Lauren and Alyse and Olivia and Emily to develop. They’re going to have to come to practice and become better players.”

“Some of the freshman have been a little more hesitant but I think that they’re adjusting well,” Kingdon added.

Practices have been nothing short of a rollercoaster, and Rubio said one of the bigger challenges is to get everyone’s energy up during practices and then have that translate into games.

“Our team isn’t at a point where a player is so consistent and so solid match after match,” Rubio said.

Rubio challenges his players to compete at their hardest, even if it’s only practice. When Rubio notices a lack of effort, he does what he can do motivate them to play harder.

Magill, for example, plays better when she’s angry. According to Rubio, he can make her angry any day, but being able to bring out that intensity at all times is part of the growth she still needs to undergo.

“Olivia is a game changer physically, there’s no question. She’s got a chance to be one of the top middles of our conference with time,” Rubio said. “Part of her growth is learning how to work hard on every single play, and no one’s really taught her that habit yet.”

Kingdon and sophomore middle blocker Rachel Rhoades are hard at work in making the transition easier for the freshmen who haven’t quite found that confidence yet.

“I try to bring a fun side to practices,” Rhoades said, “It can be tough for the new players to sometimes let loose and just play and I’m okay with making someone laugh.”

With Rhoades’s return from a concussion and Kingdon leading the offense along with sophomore opposite Taylor Arizobal the team is trying to get more comfortable every practice. In order to continue to improve there’s no doubt it will be a collective effort this season.

“The freshmen are hanging in there, in practice they’re just trying to keeping everyone up to date and keeping up the communication,” Arizobal said.

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