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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 19 Arizona volleyball hosts No. 3 Washington and Washington State

Jesus Barrera

Arizona middle blocker McKenzie Jacobson (18) spikes against California on Oct. 2 in McKale Center. Jacobson has stressed the importance of working together to knock off top-ranked opponents.

Arizona is back in McKale Center to take on Washington State on Friday and Washington on Sunday after losing in four sets to Stanford and defeating California in four sets last weekend.

Both teams should present challenges to the No. 19 Wildcats. Washington State (14-10, 3-9 Pac-12 Conference) took then-No. 2 USC to a fifth set and was two points away from knocking off the top Pac-12 team, while No. 3 Washington (20-2, 10-2) was able to hand the Trojans their only loss of the season.

“It’s [going to] be, I think, a really competitive weekend, as they seem to all be,” said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio.

Arizona (15-9, 5-7) has dropped eight of its nine losses against opponents ranked in the top 10. It is becoming a repetitive storyline for Arizona volleyball, but one the Wildcats know will not go away until they prove they can beat an elite team.

“We’re not sustaining a level of play long enough to be able to win three sets,” Rubio said. “We can do it for a set, set and a half, maybe two sets.”

The match against Stanford last weekend was a perfect example of what Rubio was referring to.

Arizona had control of the match after losing the first set. The Wildcats won the second 25-19 and had a 13-9 lead in the third. Arizona was not able to maintain the high level of play, though, as Stanford stormed back to steal the third set and win the fourth.

“We had Stanford on the ropes again and we let them off the hook,” Rubio said.

Middle blocker McKenzie Jacobson said the team has been working on being able to close out top-ranked opponents during practice. She said the team has been working on maintaining concentration, always keeping the intensity level up, making sure the players are always communicating with each other and focusing on the little things.

Going into the end of the season and the NCAA Tournament, Jacobson said it will also be important for the team to be able to focus on every point regardless of what happened on the point before, so the Wildcats won’t find themselves struggling in matches like they have in the past.

Rubio said the emphasis at practice has changed with the end of the season in sight.

“Right now, we’re in the home stretch,” Rubio said. “We have four weeks left of competition; practices get shorter. We start to really not teach as much, even though I’m always teaching.”

Rubio has been working to get his players to perform without thinking as much, something he said he believes is an important component of playing well. Rubio said he hopes his team will peak at the right time.

Arizona is in the middle of the Pac-12, currently No. 7 in the standings with a 5-7 record. Though they are ranked No. 19 in the Coaches’ Poll, Arizona is only 49th in the RPI rankings.

Finally getting a win over a top 10 ranked opponent like Washington on Sunday could help Arizona improve its rank, but the Wildcats have to be prepared and ready to play Washington State before thinking about the pesky Huskies.

Follow Brandon James on Twitter.

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