Washington State and Arizona had dramatically different results on Friday night. The Wildcats took their first loss at McKale and failed to win a set for the first time this season. Meanwhile, the Cougars took to the road and swept ASU in Tempe.
There were a number of issues for Arizona in their match against Washington, but coach Dave Rubio cited effort and competitiveness as the biggest ones. Can those things be fixed in less than two days—especially with the team suffering key injuries?
What can the Wildcats expect from the Cougars?
Cougars to watch for
The 6’3” senior Taylor Mims is a past All-Pac-12 First Team honoree. She’s leading the team with 3.95 k/s this year after putting up 4.17 k/s in 2017. That places her fifth in the conference. She is also ninth in the Pac-12 with 18 aces this season, albeit with 35 service errors to counter that. Overall, she averages 4.56 pt/s, also good for fifth in the conference.
Middle blocker Jocelyn Urias ranks sixth in the conference with a .350 hitting percentage, just behind Arizona’s Devlyn Cross. Her 1.22 blocks per set put her seventh in the Pac-12.
The Cougars have a strong setter in Ashley Brown. She is fifth in the conference with 10.49 assists per set. She has over 50 assists in three of her last four matches—two five-setters and a four-setter, all against ranked teams.
Liz Shelton has been out for the entire Pac-12 season with a concussion. She was joined this week by Paige Whipple. If either plays, Shelton would be the more likely candidate.
Katie Smoot saw limited action against Washington, but has been dealing with an abdominal injury that kept her out of the previous two matches.
What to expect from the match
While they are a more experienced team, Washington State will present many of the same problems that Washington did. They have a little bit more size than Arizona, and they serve very well.
In addition to Urias, the Cougars have a strong server in sophomore Penny Tusa. Tusa’s 0.33 aces per set place her sixth in the conference.
With Shelton and Whipple both presumably still out, the Wildcats will be reliant on their large reserve of defensive specialists or their freshman bigs to step in and fill the void. Both middle blocker Zyonna Fellows and hitter Whittnee Nihipali saw time against Washington, with Nihipali getting her first career start. Rubio liberally substituted senior Victoria Svorinic and junior Emi Pua’a throughout the last match.
With the significant injuries Arizona is dealing with, they will face an uphill battle against a talented Washington State squad. Based on his statements after the Washington loss, Rubio just wants to see better effort and more belief from his players, win or lose.
How to watch
The match will be streamed via Arizona Live Stream beginning at 12 p.m. MST on Sunday.