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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


What to expect from the Arizona volleyball team as they face rival Arizona State this weekend

Megan Ewing
The Women’s Volleyball team comes together during a timeout before continuing with their match, in which they swept Stanford on Friday, Feb. 5. This is the first time since 2005 that the Wildcats have defeated the Cardinals while playing at home.

With it now being the midpoint of the season, Arizona volleyball team’s head coach Dave Rubio spoke and senior Paige Whipple spoke to the media on Wednesday, March 3 to answer questions about the remainder of the season. 

After a disappointing season sweep in Los Angeles against the UCLA Bruins, Rubio’s focus is now on beating their crosstown rival Arizona State. Rubio did provide an update on middle blocker China Rai Crouch, who was out for the UCLA series due to concussion protocol. However, it was not the news that Arizona fans wanted to hear.

“China is still out,” Rubio said. “She is still in protocol, and I don’t think we are going to have her for this weekend.” 

This is a big blow for the Wildcats, especially with Crouch being one of the tallest players on the team and Arizona lacking in size at the net. 

Last weekend did see the return of outside hitter Paige Whipple, which was great for team morale. She is one of two seniors on the roster which helps her provide insight and knowledge that the other, younger players cannot provide.  

“[Whipple] is just a quality young lady,” Rubio said. “When you recruit, the No. 1 thing on your agenda as a college coach is recruit quality young people and [Whipple] certainly fits that criteria.”

Since Whipple is the oldest and most experienced on the team, she knows that she will be looked at as the leader, even if it is a role she is not too familiar with. 

“This year I have had to step into a vocal role,” Whipple said. “It has been different for me, but I think it has really helped me. All my teammates are like my little babies, and I love helping them.”

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The Wildcats will need all the help they can get against ASU, especially with rivalries meaning so much to not just the players but the whole city. Whipple acknowledged that these types of games can mess with the team’s psyche a bit.

“I think it can definitely play into it,” Whipple said. “Obviously Arizona and ASU is always a huge rivalry.” 

Whipple did note that with a lot of the players being new, that the magnitude of the rivalry might not be felt as much on Arizona’s side.

“We have several foreign players and several freshmen,” Whipple said. “I don’t think they understand the longstanding rivalry that is there, which I think is beneficial.”

Finally, Whipple was asked whether she was coming back or not next season. Even though Whipple is a senior, the NCAA has allowed players whose seasons were shortened last year due to COVID-19 to come back for an extra year. When asked, Whipple gave no hints as to what she is thinking.

“Once the season is over, I’m going to take some time [to think],” Whipple said. “[Coach Dave Rubio] knows the decision is not going to be given to him anytime soon.”

The Wildcats will face the Sun Devils on Friday, March 5 at 2 p.m. MST in McKale Center and again on Sunday, March 7 at 4 p.m. MST in Desert Financial Arena. 

Follow Sean Fagan on Twitter

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