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Arizona volleyball hopes time has helped solve the puzzle of Stanford

How to watch and what to expect as the Wildcats host Stanford and California

arizona-volleyball-transfer-merry-go-round-hiapo-rosenthal Photo by Catherine Regan / Arizona Athletics

When Arizona volleyball went to Maples Pavilion earlier this month, their outing against Stanford was the worst showing of the season. Weeks later, that still stands. Arizona head coach Dave Rubio believes the time on the clock for his young team will make it a better match this time around.

“Stanford presented some areas and that we hadn’t faced before with their length,” Rubio said. “They’re big and longer than any team that we played, even Texas, and so I think we’ll just mentally, emotionally be better. We’re certainly physically better than we were at that time, and we’re playing at home.”

In that three-set match against the Cardinal on Oct. 3, no one on the Wildcats’ side of the net reached double digits in kills. The closest was Puk Stubbe who had nine. As a team, Arizona hit .122 while Stanford was at a blistering .380. It got out of hand so quickly that Rubio chose to play several freshmen to give them experience.

Stanford is not one of the very old teams full of graduate students and super seniors that primarily make up the top of the conference this season. That doesn’t matter. The Cardinal are still the Cardinal, a team that has elite talent in every recruiting class.

They have three players averaging over three kills per set in Caitie Baird (4.75), Kendall Kipp (3.51), and Sami Francis (3.04). The only upperclassman in that group is Kipp, who is a junior this season. After a difficult season during the spring, the Cardinal have shown once again that no one should ever count them out.

After facing Stanford, Arizona will host California. The Golden Bears gave the Wildcats a fight in Berkeley but eventually fell in four sets. It was the end of a three-game winning streak Arizona had to open up the Pac-12 season.

Since the win at Cal, the Wildcats have been through all of the top teams in the league. They have just one win over the past seven matches. That still puts them higher on the conference leaderboard than the Bears, who have yet to win a conference match this season and are on an eleven-match losing streak.

The Golden Bears have also had shifts in their lineup since the two teams last met. Former Arizona pin hitter Katie Smoot has not played for the past two weeks. Her 3.18 kills per set lead the Cal pin hitters.

On the positive side, middle blocker Lydia Grote debuted for the Bears on Oct. 15 against Colorado. While she has only played four matches, she is currently averaging a team-leading 3.58 k/s.

“They’ve made some really good adjustments, and they got the players, I think, in the best positions to help them win,” Rubio said.

Stanford Cardinal (12-6, 7-3 Pac-12)

Date and time: Friday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. MST

Location: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Viewing and stats information: The match will air on Pac-12 Bay Area. Stats will be available on Arizona Live Stats.

AVCA ranking, RPI & Pac-12 standings: The Cardinal are ranked No. 15 in the AVCA poll. They are No. 17 in RPI and third in the Pac-12 standings.

Rubio says: “Whether or not we’ll be in a position to beat those guys, I don’t know. But, certainly, I think we’ll play better than we did last time.”

California Golden Bears (7-14, 0-10 Pac-12)

Date and time: Sunday, Oct. 31 at 12 p.m. MST

Location: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Viewing and stats information: The match will be streamed on Arizona Live Stream. Stats will be available on Arizona Live Stats.

AVCA ranking, RPI & Pac-12 standings: The Bears are unranked. They stand at No. 235 in RPI and last in the Pac-12.

Rubio says: “I think Cal is one of the scariest teams out there right now because they’ve changed their lineup, and they’re completely different than when we played before.”

How to follow along: For regular news about the team, follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm. For live tweets of matches and other updates, you can follow our deputy editor @KimDoss71.