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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA volleyball headed to Dallas for SMU Invite

Rebecca Noble

Volleyball head coach Dave Rubio gestures during Arizona’s win against Cal State Northridge on Sept. 6, 2014. The win finished a 3-0 weekend for the Wildcats.

Arizona volleyball will begin its season on the road in Dallas, playing three games over Friday and Saturday. 

The Wildcats, who begin the season ranked No. 17 in the country, are competing in the SMU Invite. 

Arizona will play host to Southern Methodist Friday at 5 p.m., Texas State on Saturday at 9 a.m. and Abilene Christian Saturday at 3 p.m. On paper, SMU looks to be the Wildcats’ biggest challenge of the weekend.

“We’re playing a really good SMU team,” Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio said. “They’re returning five starters from a team that went 26-5 last year, so they’re very, very good. They wanted to play us. It will certainly give us a pretty good indication of where we are at in regards to our training and our development.”

Rubio admitted to being a bit anxious about the opening weekend because three transfer students — McKenna Painton, Nikki Attea, and Mackenzie Kleespies — will step onto the court in a game situation for the Wildcats for the first time. 

The newcomers have impressed the coach in practice thus far.

“I like what I’ve been seeing,” Rubio said. “All three of those guys … have been outstanding for us.” 

Although Rubio will wait until after the first weekend to make any major judgement, he feels that his squad is in a good place after hard training and intense practices. He wants to see how his players will compete during the first few matches.

“Every match, every set, there is always going to be a moment in the match that is going to determine whether you win or lose,” Rubio said. “I’d like to see whose going to be able to step up and whose going to lead us at those particular moments.” 

One player that won’t have a question mark next to her name is junior Laura Larson.

She will look to apply all she learned from her experience playing for team USA overseas in the World University Games over the summer . Larson said that playing with elite athletes from all across the country gave her a lot of confidence and taught her how to become a better leader.

With the summer behind her and the college season underway, Larson is now looking forward to playing strong opponents like SMU so early in the season. She thinks it will prepare the team moving forward. 

When asked about what she wants to see in her team, Larson said she really wants to see her team and continue to play hard in all situations.

“When we’re down, I want to see the whole team try to step up and not just let points go and get down on ourselves,” Larson said.  “I want to stay positive, stay in the game, and really fight back if we ever get down.”

When it comes down to it, Rubio said his team will ultimately be evaluated by the scoreboard. He thinks the weekend in Dallas will be an important indicator of where his team is and what they will need to work on in the weeks to come.

Follow Brandon James on Twitter.

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