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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


The mindset of a championship team

Tim Glass
Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat

What takes a team to the next level, separating the champions from the contenders?

How does a team go beyong simply competing? These are the ideas that head coach Dave Rubio proposed to the Arizona volleyball team after the loss to then-No. 5 Washington Huskies at home.

Arizona volleyball took the opening set from the Huskies 25-18, but a number of errors, poor serve-receive and firstcontact balls contributed to the Wildcats struggles during the rest of the match. The 3-1 loss to Washington was Arizona’s second home loss of the season.

“”We were digging balls, but we weren’t executing well because we were so worried about everything aside from the one thing we had to focus on at specific moments,”” said junior Paige Weber.

Rubio has always held that defending the home court was essential to staying competitive in the Pacific 10 Conference, but after the showing the Wildcats put on Friday night, the team’s demeanor was described in one word — defeated.

“”The loss isn’t what I’m looking at. I’m looking at the behavior that goes with the loss,”” Rubio said about Arizona’s attitude after Friday’s loss. “”We’ve lost now to four different teams. The reason that we lost wasn’t because they were better than us, it was because we ended up beating ourselves.””

While this is one of the Wildcats’ more veteran teams, after Friday’s match, Rubio was very insistent that Arizona had a long way to go in terms of emotional and mental maturity. He emphasized that what the team needed to work on now was making mental adjustments.

“”Even as a great team, eventually, you understand that there’s no consolation to getting close,”” Rubio said. “”Right now against a really good team, which the problem is, in our conference, every team is good … we have some growing up to do.””

“”We need to decide quickly on if we’re going to take that step to the next level and that has to come from the attitude,”” Rubio continued. “”The attitude will help us execute at a higher level, a more consistent level.””

That level of consistency is something that has eluded the Wildcats all season. After Pac-10 play started, the Wildcats’ record has been on a roller coaster.

As they head away from McKale again this weekend, the dread of playing on the road looms over Arizona team. The last time the Wildcats lost at home, and then headed on the road, they were swept 3-0 in two consecutive matches.

“”The slightest advantage can turn the table,”” said senior Jacy Norton. “”I think as a whole too, it’s not just an individual thing, we need to have confidence in ourselves as a team.””

Given Arizona’s road record the past two years, nothing is guaranteed. The question now for the No. 18 ranked Wildcats: How far can Arizona evolve with less than a month before the conference season ends?

“”We’re shooting ourselves in the foot a lot. Honestly, that’s what we’re going to be worrying about,”” Weber said. “”It’s going to be us focusing on us and playing well on our side of the net. You can’t help what the other team does, you can help what you do to stop the other team.””

In order to become the elite team that Arizona has worked toward all season, it will have to not only work to in psychically imposing team, but also one that can mentally handle the challenges of playing in the competitive Pac-10.

“”When things get bad, you want to get upset, that’s human nature,”” Weber said. “”But in sports when things get bad, you can’t get frustrated because then that just compounds the problem.””

To achieve their goal of making the postseason for the first time since 2005, Arizona will have to hang tough mentally. Their mindset when things get rough has to be the focus of practice.

“”There comes a point where you want the easy road to win or be successful. Are you willing to work and deserve it to be a great team? They’ve done that,”” Rubio said. “”Now the question is ‘Do they believe in themselves?’ That’s the biggest thing. ‘Do they believe that they’re a great team?’ That’s what they have to overcome.””

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