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Arizona volleyball: Wildcats playing down to competition as NCAA Tournament draws near

The Cats will have to step it up heading into the postseason

Head volleyball coach Dave Rubio after Arizona beats Cal in four sets

The Arizona Wildcats had a unique volleyball/men’s basketball doubleheader on Friday evening in McKale Center.

Both teams won, but the coach of the opening act was not pleased with his team’s performance in a four-set victory over Cal.

“I’m not sure why we played so uninspired,” Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio said after the match. “It was frustrating for us, and for me, to play with the lack of execution, lack of emotion, and lack of desire to be sharp at this time of the year.”

Arizona (17-12, 9-8 Pac-12), only has three matches remaining in the regular season after this one, which was what left coach so concerned about his team’s play.

“Heading into the last three matches, I would hope that we would be a little more dialed in, and unfortunately that wasn’t the case,” he continued. “Extremely disappointing.”

Cal (9-18, 3-14 Pac-12) had already beaten Arizona in Berkeley earlier this year for one of their three conference victories. The Golden Bears took the first set in Tucson 25-19 before the Cats rallied and won the final three sets.

“I was happy we were able to make some changes,” Rubio explained. “And I think as a result, our emotional level went up, and we were able to execute at a higher level.”

“For the most part, we realized that this is the end of the season, obviously four games left,” freshman middle blocker Devyn Cross added. “It’s like all or nothing right now. Give everything right now, so we were just trying to emotionally get back into the game, and hoping that it would come out with a win, and it did.”

“Most teams have their ups and downs, and we just happened to have a down at the beginning, but we pulled through.”

The lack of emotion and passion at the beginning of the match was not something Rubio saw coming from his players.

“Practice has been very good,” coach stated. “I told them in the meeting, you know this is really coming out of left field because our practice has been excellent. Really good, good energy, intense, competitive, and then we kinda came out and played really flat.”

Rubio doesn’t feel like it’s his place to have to get his team’s emotional level up though, and was also frustrated by that on Friday evening.

“The thing that I don’t like to be is a cheerleader,” he added. “In this particular match, I was cheerleading. As a coach, there are times when you have to do that. You’d rather not, but today it was more of a motivational speech after every timeout.”

This seems to be a common theme with Arizona against teams that are at the bottom of the conference.

“You know, it’s just like Dave says, every opponent should be the same,” explained freshman libero/defensive specialist Makenna Martin. “The coaching staff does a great job, but it’s sometimes hard for us as players to get focused, and we just need to work on doing a better job and helping the coaching staff with what they’re teaching us in practice throughout the week.”

Arizona hosts Stanford (18-7, 12-5 Pac-12) at noon MT on Sunday, and hosts Utah (20-8, 11-6 Pac-12) on Wednesday at 4 PM MT. UA closes the regular season in Tempe against ASU (9-20, 2-15 Pac-12) on November 26th at 3 PM MT. The Wildcats were 26th in this week’s RPI, so they’re likely in the NCAA Tournament, but will need a strong finish to secure a higher seed.