Wildcat Volleyball goes back to the Bay - Tucson News Now

Wildcat Volleyball goes back to the Bay

Tucson, AZ - #19 Arizona Wildcats (14-8, 4-6 Pac-12) // #7 Stanford Cardinal (13-5, 7-3 Pac-12), California Golden Bears (8-13, 2-8 Pac-12)


Date: Friday, Oct. 30

Time: 8:00 p.m. MST

Location: Palo Alto, Calif. (Maples Pavilion)

T.V.: Pac-12 Networks (Krista Blunk, Holly McPeak)

Live Stats: gostanford.com

Live Updates: Twitter (@ArizonaVBall)


Date: Sunday, Nov. 1

Time: 2:00 p.m. MST

Location: Berkeley, Calif. (Haas Pavilion)

Live Stream: pac-12.com/live/university-california

Live Stats: calbears.com

Live Updates: Twitter (@ArizonaVBall)

THIS WEEK: As the calendar is set to turn to November, 19th-ranked Arizona (14-8, 4-6 Pac-12) has reached the homestretch of its season as the UA turns to the second half of the conference season, beginning with a trip to the Bay Area to take on seventh-ranked Stanford (13-5, 7-3 Pac-12) before facing California (8-13, 2-8 Pac-12). The Wildcats, who ended their longest losing streak since 2013 (3 matches) on Sunday, head to Stanford, coming off a home sweep of the Washington schools, including a five-set victory over No. 4 Washington on Friday at 8 p.m. MST. The Cats will then meet Cal on Sunday, which has won 2-of-its-last-3 Pac-12 matches after losing its first seven.


  •          After beginning the season 8-0 for the fifth time in school history, Arizona has gone 6-8 in the 12 matches since, but has faced seven teams currently ranked in the top 14 of the AVCA Poll in that span.
  •          UA is 14-1 against teams ranked outside of the current AVCA top 15 and 0-7 against top-15 teams.
  •          UA’s 0-7 mark against the top teams in the country does not properly showcase the competitiveness of the matches. Arizona has taken eight sets off top-13 teams and has taken seven additional sets to deuce. Arizona is just 1-7 in sets decided by two points in its seven losses. Despite losing all seven of the matches, Arizona has only been outscored by a cumulative 53 points (677-624). “We’re close,” said head coach Dave Rubio following a four-set loss at No. 1 USC. “But I’m tired of being close.”
  •          Thirty-one of Arizona’s 81 sets have been decided by three points or fewer. Arizona is just over .500 in those sets (16-15). The Cats are 35-15 (.700) in sets decided by four or more points.
  •          Kalei Mau, who averaged 1.27 kills/set in 2014, has 18 or more kills in 10 of Arizona’s last 15 matches, including eight 20-plus-kill efforts. Her 4.90 kills/set in Pac-12 play lead the conference.
  •          Halli Amaro is just 15 blocks away from 400 career stuffs. She will be the seventh player in Arizona history to reach the milestone and the first since Jacy Norton recorded her 400th block in 2009.
  •          Arizona’s serve receive has seen a drastic improvement. After allowing 1.12 aces/set over its first nine matches, that number has shrunk to 0.62 over UA’s last 14 matches. Seven of Arizona’s 34 aces allowed in that span came against No. 1 USC and the conference’s top server, Samantha Bricio.
  •          Arizona is second in the Pac-12 in digs (16.57/set), is third in kills (14.31/set) and is fourth in assists (13.07/set). Penina Snuka (891) leads the Pac-12 in assists.
  •          Twelve of Arizona’s 22 opponents have hit under .160 this season, including six under .100. Arizona is holding its opponents to a .181 cumulative hitting percentage which is sixth in the Pac-12.
  •          The Wildcats are six wins away from their third straight 20-win season. Prior to recording 21 (2013) and 24 (2014) wins each of the last two seasons, Arizona reached 20 victories just once in the previous seven seasons (2010; 20).
  •          Despite losing its top three scorers from a season ago, Arizona has rebounded remarkably and is third in the Pac-12 in kills. Kalei Mau, who averaged 1.27 kills in her 49 sets as a sophomore in 2014, has starred in her increased role, averaging 4.58 kills/set, 12th in the country.  
  •          Coinciding with the arrival of assistant coach Gregg Whitis, who works mainly with Arizona’s defensive specialists, Arizona’s defense has been historic the last two seasons and looks to be picking up right where it left off. UA posted its top two digs/set figures in school history each of the last two years, leading the Pac-12 with 17.87 digs/set in 2014, breaking the school record of 17.42 digs/set in 2013. Through 22 matches this year, UA leads the conference with 1,341.
  •          All-conference setter Penina Snuka currently leads the conference in assists (891). What makes this even more impressive is that she leads Arizona with 3.12 digs/set, taking her away from more than three assist opportunities every game. The junior ranks sixth in Arizona history with 3,321 assists and is approaching the top 10 in digs with 1,045.


Stanford: The Cardinal (13-5, 7-3 Pac-12) comes to Tucson winners of five of its last six, including a home sweep of the Washington schools last week, in which Stanford picked up a five-set victory over the then-fourth-ranked Huskies. The Cardinal are second in the Pac-12, averaging 3.01 blocks/set led by Ivana Vanjak’s 1.38/set. Haley Hodson averages 3.81 kills/set on .275 hitting to lead an offense which is third in the Pac-12 in hitting percentage (.270)

Series History: The Cardinal have dominated the all-time series, winning 63 of the 70 matchups between the two clubs, including the last 18. Arizona’s last win in the series came on Nov. 11, 2005 when Arizona beat Stanford in Palo Alto (30-26, 17-30, 30-22, 26-30, 18-16). Arizona has not faced a Stanford team ranked outside the top 10 since 2004. Arizona took two of the first three sets from Stanford in Tucson in the teams’ first meeting, but the Cardinal prevailed in five (full recap on page 5).

California: After losing their first seven Pac-12 matches the Golden Bears (8-13, 2-8 Pac-12) have won 2-of-3, including a sweep of Washington State in their last outing. When Arizona and California meet, it will be a matchup of two of the top five digging teams in the conference. The first time the two teams met, there were 130 total digs. Cal is led by Lillian Schonewise, who averages 2.85 kills/set on .366 hitting.

Series History: Arizona owns a 37-23 record vs. Cal in 60 all-time meetings. Arizona has won three straight vs. Cal, ending an eight-game winning streak in the series for the Golden Bears. The Wildcats defeated Cal in four sets earlier this season in Tucson (full recap on page 5).

HEAD COACH DAVE RUBIO: The winningest active volleyball coach in the Pac-12, Dave Rubio is in his 24th season at the helm of the Arizona volleyball program. Rubio has led the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament in 17 of his 23 seasons as the head coach, including five of the last six seasons. Rubio, who guided the 2000 club to a Pac-10 title and the 2001 squad to the Final Four, holds a 454-271 (.629) all-time record at Arizona.

RANKINGS: After five straight weeks at No. 14, Arizona fell to No. 19 in the AVCA Top 25. The Wildcats have been ranked as high as 13 this season (week 2). Arizona has not been ranked higher than 13th since finishing the 2005 season seventh. UA was 17th in the preseason rankings its highest preseason ranking since an identical ranking of 17th heading into the 2005 season. Arizona is one of seven Pac-12 teams in the poll. Arizona has been in 25 consecutive polls, dating back week 1 of last year, including 22 straight top-20 rankings. Arizona finished 2014 ranked 16th.

SETTING THE TONE: All-conference setter Penina Snuka has excelled in her two-plus seasons as the Wildcats’ setter and will be the key piece in Arizona’s success in 2015. Snuka was an honorable mention All-American a season ago when she totaled 1,234 assists (10.82/set) as well as 453 digs, third in Arizona history. Snuka led the Pac-12 in double-doubles in 2014 with 25. After just two seasons, Snuka is already sixth in Arizona history with 3,321 assists and moving quickly up the digs chart. Snuka is already 840 digs away from cracking the Arizona top 10 and 101 digs away from recording the most digs from a setter in school history.

CAN YOU DIG IT? Arizona has excelled the last two years, posting the two best dig/set totals in school history, including a school record 17.87 last season. Laura Larson returns after spending the summer as the starting libero for Team USA in the World University Games. Arizona also welcomes three transfers (Anna Panagiotakopoulos - West Virginia, McKenna Painton - Cal State Fullerton and Mackenzie Kleespies - James Madison) all of whom were the primary liberos at their previous schools. UA has led the conference in digs each of the last two seasons.

Arizona posted the seventh-highest dig total in school history when it dug 112 balls in the season-opener vs. SMU. Five of the top 11 dig totals in Arizona history have come since the start of the 2014 season. Kalei Mau notched 31 of those digs to be named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. Mau’s 31 digs are tied for fifth in Arizona history. In school history, there have been 10 30-plus dig matches, five of which have come since the start of the 2013 season.

FRESH FACES: When Arizona takes the court there will be plenty of new faces for fans to learn. Two-thirds of Arizona’s roster (12 of 18) is made up of players that will see their first action for Arizona in 2015. This includes seven freshmen, four transfers and a redshirt freshman. Arizona’s eight-player recruiting class is ranked 14th nationally and includes four top-100 recruits: Sarah Dixon (30), Tyler Spriggs (37), Kendra Dahlke (49) and Meghan Buzzerio (95). The four transfers should play an even greater role as they each bring an invaluable resource to the team: experience. UA welcomes honorable mention All-American Nikki Attea from West Virginia as well as the Mountaineer’s primary libero Anna Panagiotakopoulos. Additionally the Cats welcome Mackenzie Kleespies from James Madison and McKenna Painton from Cal State Fullerton, both of whom served as the libero at their previous schools.

GLASS HONORED: Arizona alum Kim Glass (2002-05) was honored by the Pac-12 as she was selected to the conference’s volleyball All-Century Team. Glass was one of 16 players selected to the team. The 2002 Pac-10 and National Freshman of the Year is Arizona’s all-time leader in kills (2,151) and owns three of the top four season kill totals in Arizona history including a record 650 in 2003. Glass had 54 matches with 20 or more kills in her career, nearly double the second highest total in school history (Barb Bell – 30). She is the only Wildcat to have her jersey retired in McKale. Glass went on to help lead Team USA to a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics.

SWEET 16: PrepVolleyball.com ranked the Top 25 Division I Volleyball programs of all time, ranking Arizona 16th siting the 18 seasons Arizona has finished in the Top 25, including last year. This ranking is a credit to the work that head coach Dave Rubio has put in during his 23-plus years as the head coach at Arizona. Though there has always been high quality volleyball at Arizona, Rubio has taken things to a new level. Rubio took over a program that won four total tournament games in history and equaled that total within his first three years. In all, volleyball has been to 26 NCAA Tournaments, including five of the last six and 17 total under Rubio. Arizona has been to seven Sweet 16s, four Elite 8s and advanced to the 2001 Final Four. Arizona finished in the top five in five seasons, including a high of No. 4 in 2001.

A NEW LOOK: The Wildcats lose several key contributors from the 2014 club that will need to be replaced in 2015. In addition to the graduation of five key seniors, the Cats will also be without outside hitter Ashley Harris, who is taking a leave of absence for personal reasons. Harris, All-American Madi Kingdon and Taylor Arizobal were Arizona’s primary scoring options last season, and all are gone now.  UA also lost starting libero Ronni Lewis and key role players MB Rachel Rhoades and DS Kennedy Wesley.

Though the Wildcats lose a significant amount of offense, all-conference setter Penina Snuka will have plenty of options to set this season, a majority of whom are in their first season with the program. UA welcomes three freshmen outside hitters, all of whom were top-100 recruits - Kendra Dahlke, Tyler Spriggs and Meghan Buzzerio. Additionally, the Cats welcome honorable mention All-American Nikki Attea from West Virginia for her senior season. Attea totaled 292 kills on .269 hitting in 2014. Junior outside hitter Kalei Mau, who saw limited action as a sophomore, will play a large role as well.

NEW DIGS: Historic McKale Center received a roughly-$30 million facelift prior to the 2014 season. The first phase of the multi-phase renovation included brand new seats in the arena, a new court, a new state-of-the-art video board, new LED screens around the arena, upgraded concessions and bathrooms in the concourse and a new locker room complete with a lounge area and kitchenette. Head coach Dave Rubio said of the facility, “Our goal was to have the nicest, most state-of-the-art locker room in the country. I think, thanks to our administration, that is exactly what we got. It’s pretty exciting and beautiful.”

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