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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA volleyball prepares for Pac-12

Cecilia Alvarez

Arizona senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon (9) serves the ball during the last set of the UA’s 3-0 win against Tulane on Friday in McKale Center. The Wildcats now prepare for Pac-12 Conference rival ASU on Wednesday as conference play opens.

This year, mental toughness has been a constant theme for the No. 18 Arizona volleyball team.

UA head coach Dave Rubio said that when his team faces two top-25 teams this week in No. 19 ASU and No. 20 UCLA, the difference-maker will be whichever team is able to play the best and separate itself when the score is neck and neck late in a set.

“I think we match up pretty evenly talent-wise and athletically, so it’s really going to come down to mental toughness,” Rubio said. “The team that is really going to be able to play their best in the biggest moments.”

Senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon said that she feels the team’s level of mental toughness is getting stronger each week.

“That’s one thing that we really focus on in practice,” Kingdon said. “I think our skill set is there, but mentally, [it’s] something that’s really going to be important going into conference.”

Kingdon explained that while every team has big, strong players, it all really boils down to who has the ability and stamina to compete and battle all the way to the end.

Rubio said that one of the ways he’s helped his team mentally prepare for tough game situations like these is by always keeping his players on their feet and constantly throwing new obstacles in their way during practice.

“Every day, we try to create some type of adversity for the kids to fight through, and I think that’s been a good direction for us,” Rubio said. “We’ve shown during matches that we’re able to regroup and get better as games go on, even if we’re not as tuned in or aren’t playing as well as we want to.”

Rubio said that while there’s always room for improvement, he’s pleased with where the team stands entering conference play.

Rachel Rhoades injury report

The latest challenge for the Wildcats came last week after it was discovered that senior middle blocker Rachel Rhoades suffered a concussion during Arizona’s match against Central Florida earlier this month.

While Rhoades shook off the injury and played the rest of the game, she began to experience concussion-like symptoms early last week and was subsequently sidelined for the entirety of this past weekend’s Wildcat Classic.

Rubio said that when one of the starters goes out, the other players around them have to pitch in and give a lot of effort to attempt to fill their void.

“A lot of credit goes to McKenzie Jacobson, who I think really played well [last weekend],” Rubio said. “We can really get some offense out of [her]. She really showed up and her numbers are terrific; so she’s certainly going to warrant some game time and minutes.”

As of Monday evening, Rubio said it still remained unclear as to whether or not Rhoades would be able to participate in this week’s upcoming matches against No. 19 ASU and No. 20 UCLA.

Follow Evan Rosenfeld on Twitter @EvanRosenfeld17

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