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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Improve offense keys UA volleyball strong start

%09Madi+Kingdon+%289%29+celebrates+with+her+teammates+after+the+UA%26%238217%3Bs+3-0+win+against+California+State+University%2C+Northridge%2C+on+Saturday+in+McKale+Center.+Kingdon%26%238217%3Bs+offensive+improvement+is+key+behind+Arizona%26%238217%3Bs+undefeated+start+to+the+2014+season.+
Rebecca Noble

Madi Kingdon (9) celebrates with her teammates after the UA’s 3-0 win against California State University, Northridge, on Saturday in McKale Center. Kingdon’s offensive improvement is key behind Arizona’s undefeated start to the 2014 season.

In dominating fashion, the No. 21 Arizona volleyball team opened the 2014 season a perfect 6-0. It’s the best start since 2012 when the Wildcats began the season 12-0 and better than last season when the team lost against Kansas in its third game.

A significant reason behind the improvement is an increase in team hitting percentage and kills coming from the outside hitter position. Outside hitters are normally among team leaders in kills, kills per set, total attacks and hitting percentage.

Last season, the Wildcats struggled to finish 11th in the conference with a .214 hitting percentage. Only Oregon State’s .175 hitting percentage was worse. The team used defensive tactics to make up the margin and ended up reaching the postseason for the fourth time in five years.

This season, Arizona has improved dramatically in its team hitting percentage. The Wildcats hold a .291 hitting percentage this year, good enough for fourth in the Pac-12 Conference. Leading the charge in that increase is senior standout outside hitter Madi Kingdon.

Kingdon has accounted for 277 of Arizona’s 677 total attacks, and her .329 hitting percentage is tops of Arizona players who have played all 19 sets this season. Her play over the weekend was instrumental in going 3-0 and winning all nine sets.

When looking at her 2013 stats, Kingdon has improved significantly across the board. In particular, her hitting percentage has improved drastically from .207 last season to .329 this year.

Not to mention she leads the team in several other vital statistical categories like kills (117), kills per set (6.16), total blocks (15) and points (133.0). Kingdon’s importance to Arizona head coach Dave Rubio’s squad can’t be understated.

“For being the start of the season, I think there’s a lot we can work on,” Kingdon said in a press release. “But as far as this weekend goes, getting three wins that were sweeps, what more could you ask for?”

Joining Kingdon in the hitting percentage improvement are sophomore outside hitter Kalei Mau and senior outside hitter Taylor Arizobal.

Arizobal has accounted for 97 total attacks and Mau has added 76 total attacks of her own. In all, the trio of Kingdon, Arizobal and Mau has combined for 450 of Arizona’s 677 total attacks, or a whopping 66.5 percent of the team’s total.

Rubio’s team has lost only one set out of 19 total sets this season, and increased offensive firepower is the primary reason behind that change.

The Wildcats have five outside hitters on the roster, down from six last season, and have kept up the offensive numbers despite battling through injuries. Sophomore setter Penina Snuka injured her ankle before the team’s three games over the weekend.

“You’re so used to playing next to certain people and the rhythm of the team,” Rubio said. “You don’t really understand how fragile that balance is until you take one of those main people out. All of a sudden, everything is off kilter.”

—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseofPayne555

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