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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Picked 7th in Pac-12, volleyball motivated

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Volleyball vs Louisville

Just as coaches in the Pacific 10 Conference picked Arizona volleyball to finish in the conference last preseason, the newly-formed Pac-12 again chose the Wildcats to place seventh in 2011.

The coaches didn’t battle it out for the top spot. Instead, they took a more civil approach and did an online poll, which didn’t allow them to choose their own team, head coach Dave Rubio explained.

The poll had a point system, which created the final results. Rubio wasn’t surprised at the predicted outcome.

“I kind of expected us to be (picked seventh),” Rubio said. “I wasn’t actually sure where they would put us, because everyone knows we graduated four starters from last year’s team. In some respects, I’m surprised they put us as high as they did.”

The poll has USC taking the conference with its six returning starters and top libero. Last year, the Trojans were the national runner-up and third in the conference. Their placement in this year’s poll was a no-brainer, Rubio said. His personal poll reflected the official one.

“Actually the poll was exactly the way I had written and voted, with the exception of us, of course,” Rubio said. “I thought USC was the top-ranked team and I felt that Washington State would be the team that struggled the most.”

While being seventh out of 12 teams is better than being seventh out of 10, it’s still worthy of being called a slight. Sophomore libero Candace Nicholson wasn’t taken aback by the poll, but says it’s now a motivating factor.

“Last year we finished sixth, so I feel like it’s probably not the best ranking, but for the most part I feel like we can improve,” Nicholson said. “We can definitely end up in the top five, but right now it’s a good starting place for us.”

The team is inarguably young, with eight freshmen. Their youth most certainly played a role in their predicted outcome, Nicholson said. But the team is looking to put the youth talk to rest.

“Our team has a reputation that we are going to be young and inexperienced,” Nicholson said. “I know, and it’s not just me, we all want to prove it wrong and we think that we can — we just need to practice.”

Red and Blue

The volleyball team held its annual intrasquad Red and Blue Scrimmage on Saturday, giving the public a first look at this season’s team.

The red team prevailed, but the rosters were interchangeable as players competed on both teams.

The scrimmage not only served as a debut of the team’s talent, but also a tool for Rubio to create his starting line-up.
To him, the scrimmage play was average.

“I gave us a C-plus and I think for us to be a top team in the conference, you need to be a B-plus,” Rubio said. “We’re not close to being where we need to be to be a top-level team. The good news is I feel like we’ve got the talent to be a top-level team. The question is can we develop the talent fast enough to make a difference before the season ends?”

Rubio’s grade implies roughly 75 percent of the scrimmage was good. According to Rubio, that percentage included the team’s serving, serve receive and overall ball-handling.

The standout player of the scrimmage was senior middle-blocker Cursty Jackson, Rubio said.

“Cursty was a man amongst boys,” Rubio said. “She looked terrific.”
Jackson led the team with 17 kills and only three errors, creating a team-high .519 hitting percentage.

Right behind Jackson with 16 kills was freshman outside hitter Madison Kingdon, who also had eight digs throughout the scrimmage.
As for the other 25 percent of the team’s grade?

“Our setting was average and our attacking on the pins can get a whole lot better,” Rubio said.

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