Arizona volleyball coach Dave Rubio has been in favor of a spring season for volleyball for a long time. In mid-July, he publicly stated that the preference. It wasn’t until mid-August that the Pac-12 finally gave him his wish.
Now, the Arizona Wildcats are taking advantage of that extended off season with plenty of work on fundamentals.
“We’re kind of going week-to-week on what we’re allowed to do,” Rubio said in a video posted by the team on Sept. 2.
Things look and feel a little bit different this year, but we're thrilled to back on the court pic.twitter.com/Ig5XKlsmQx— Arizona Volleyball (@ArizonaVBall) September 3, 2020
The training has been done in phases. Last Monday, they finally entered Phase 3 and will get to enter Phase 4 on Labor Day, when the entire group will be allowed to be in the gym together instead of splitting into smaller groups.
Last week, the team finally got to enter McKale Center and start working on drills. For a very young team, the slow pace required by a phased reentry may turn out to be a silver lining.
“For me, just trying to introduce some of the way that we do some of the technical things is important,” Rubio said. “So it works out really well for us. You know, it’s pretty slow and deliberate right now.”
The Wildcats welcome 11 newcomers this year, including a class that was ranked No. 7 by John Tawa at Volley High. Two of those freshmen—Shelby O’Neal and Lauren Ware—will redshirt this season, but that still leaves a large group that will be seeing the floor in cardinal and navy for the first time in 2020-21.
The process of integrating everyone is made harder by some of the COVID-19 protocols, though. Rubio said communication through a mask is challenging for both him and the players.
“It’s harder to communicate because the kids are so distancing themselves from one another,” he said. “So that makes it more difficult, and I’m hard of hearing anyway at my age. So everything about this is different in that respect. Some of it is makes it a little more difficult than it was in the past.”
The differences this year aren’t all negative, though. In the past, Arizona has often brought in players who were very athletic, but needed development as volleyball players. This class comes in with strong volleyball skills.
“We’re really talented,” Rubio said. “I could tell just from what we were doing within the drills that we have some players who are athletic and have the ability to be fast and explosive, but they’re also really good volleyball players. I think we’re really going to be talented in every position. There shouldn’t be a weakness in the lineup anywhere.”