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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Jackels holds down libero position

    Libero Katie Jackels drops down for a dig during practice Tuesday in McKale Center. The senior, who started only six times last season, battled her roommate, junior Brittany Leonard, for the starting role this season.
    Libero Katie Jackels drops down for a dig during practice Tuesday in McKale Center. The senior, who started only six times last season, battled her roommate, junior Brittany Leonard, for the starting role this season.

    For nearly 24 years, the record stood.

    For more than 8,600 days, Anita Moss’s name sat atop the list, the words and numbers etched in the history books: 33 digs in a five-game match against Tennessee on Nov. 4, 1983.

    On Saturday, the digs record – the second-oldest individual record in Arizona volleyball history – was broken, and Moss was moved down to No. 2 on the list.

    The milestone should have been the highlight of the night. It should have been celebrated with the other career highs that were set by Wildcats that night. Instead, the new school record, 37, was overshadowed by a five-game loss to St. Mary’s in McKale Center.

    Libero Katie Jackels said that if she could go back, she would have taken the win – giving the Wildcats a 3-0 start to the season – rather than the record that now belongs to her.

    “”We were watching film, and I just kept looking at all the balls I should have gotten to,”” she said. “”I don’t think it matters what I did do because there were so many things I didn’t do. I missed a serve at the end. I didn’t dig the last ball.””

    It’s this attitude that earned the modest Jackels, a senior, the starting position at libero this season after starting just six matches last season when she was fourth on the team with 2.36 digs per game and posted in double digits only 11 times in 30 matches.

    Though she did get a significant amount of playing time last year, her roommate and fellow libero, Brittany Leonard, started in 30 matches.

    “”Passing is the most critical part about being a libero, and Brittany has always had the edge,”” UA head coach Dave Rubio said. “”That’s why she’s had the majority of the starts in the past couple of years. But this year we looked at defense and serving. We felt like there had to be more than one aspect. We felt at the end of the preseason that it was clear-cut, that it was Katie.””

    Jackels said it is hard to battle for playing time with someone that she is so close to, but added that it is all part of the game.

    “”We know that whoever plays will do a great job,”” Jackels said.

    But before this year’s campaign kicked off, it was Leonard who was the record-breaker.

    The junior is coming off her second consecutive record-breaking season at libero. She set the single-season school records with 411 digs in a season and a 3.84-dig-per-game average last year, breaking the records she set her freshman season.

    Still, Leonard said she’s not holding a grudge about Jackels starting.

    “”I’m happy for her, and she’s doing really well,”” Leonard said. “”It’s a competition every day, and we try not to take it off the court. She’s still one of my best friends, and I’m not going to hold it against her if she started or anything. We’ve always had to compete against each other for three years now.””

    Jackels attended Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Calif., her freshman year before coming to Arizona.

    “”It was such a tough transition,”” she said. “”The level of competition is dramatically better here. It’s not even comparable.””

    One thing Arizona offers is a colossal amount of talent at libero. An often overlooked player in the sport, the libero plays a larger role than just digging up incoming spikes and serves.

    She’s different from everyone else, down to the uniform (her jersey must contrast with the team’s colors). Outside of the passing, defense and serving that Rubio is looking for, she is responsible for placing her teammates on the court and is the lead communicator.

    Jackels and Leonard are likely to trade off on the court this season like they did last year, but until then, Jackels calls the shots.

    “”Katie, as libero – I love her,”” said outside hitter Alanna Resch. “”She’s very positive. She talks to you a lot. … Defensively, she holds us down and keeps us in rhythm.””

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