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Reducing errors is key as Arizona volleyball hosts Washington, Washington State

Arizona volleyball prepares to play Oregon State on Sept. 26, 2021
Photo by Mike Mattina / Arizona Athletics

Volleyball used to be a different game. Before the introduction of rally scoring in 2001, errors by the serving team didn’t result in points for the opponent. Those errors can be deadly and they have been for the Arizona Wildcats on occasion this season.

“It’s such an unforgiving game because you’re earning a point on every single rally, where before in the side-out game you weren’t,” Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said. “And so half the mistakes weren’t moving the scoreboard for the opponent. And so there’s a real balancing act between being too aggressive and making mistakes and making unforced errors versus being aggressive enough. Are we going to put pressure on the other team to score points?”

In their loss to Stanford on Sunday, Arizona moved the scoreboard for the Cardinal a lot. The Wildcats had 82 attempts at Maples Pavilion. Those resulted in 30 kills and 20 errors. On the other side of the net, Stanford had 41 kills on 79 attempts and just 11 errors.

Arizona also moved the scoreboard for the Cardinal with service errors, reception errors, blocking errors, and a ball-handling error. If the Wildcats hope to get wins against the Huskies and the Cougars, they need to limit how much help they give their opponents because the Huskies, especially, won’t be giving Arizona many free points.

As a team, Arizona commits 5.02 attacking errors per set. Washington has committed 4.44. Washington State has had some of the same issues as Arizona with 5.12 errors per set.

Washington’s two top attackers—Samantha Dreschel and Claire Hoffman—both have relatively few errors this season. Dreschel has five or fewer errors in nine of the 12 matches she has played. Hoffman has done the same in eight of 10 matches.

“The teams that we’re going to play in the next couple of weeks, there’s a relentless amount of pressure that they put,” Rubio said. “They’re just not going to give you a lot of room to breathe. There is such a small margin for error. So we have to be able to handle that pressure, that stress that goes with that by consistently executing our skills and focus on ourselves.”

Being able to do that is part of the learning process. Rubio noted that both Washington and Washington State have experience, especially at the outside hitter position, which Arizona lacks. Drechsel is a super senior for the Huskies. Her teammate Hoffman is listed as a junior but has already played for three years. WSU has fifth-year Penny Tusa and junior Pia Timmer.

“I think that it’s certainly in our sport...if you have the requisite level of talent, which most of the teams do, that the experience and age play a huge factor on their ability to be (consistent),” Rubio said. “They’re not going to emotionally be as inconsistent and be up and down. When you’re young like we are, there tends to be a little more loss of confidence, maybe sooner... Little things bother young teams.”

The Wildcats will have to learn to let those little things slide if they hope to battle the best teams in the league.

Washington Huskies

Time and date: Friday, Oct. 8 at 6 p.m. MST

Location: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Viewing information and stats: The match will air on Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Arizona, and Pac-12 Washington. Stats will be available at Arizona Live Stats.

Record: The Huskies are 9-3 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play.

Rankings and RPI: The Huskies are ranked No. 11 in this week’s AVCA poll. They are No. 36 in the official RPI, which was released for the first time this season earlier this week.

Last year: Washington took both matches from Arizona last season. The second match went five sets, but the Wildcats weren’t able to win either match in Tucson.

Washington State Cougars

Time and date: Sunday, Oct. 10 at 12 p.m. MST

Location: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.

Viewing information and stats: Viewing information is not available on the Wildcats’ schedule or the Pac-12 website. Stats will be available at Arizona Live Stats.

Record: The Cougars are 8-6 overall. They are 2-2 in conference play.

Rankings and RPI: The Cougars are receiving votes in the AVCA poll, but they are not ranked. They are No. 37 in the RPI.

Last year: The two teams split their matches last year, both of which were played in Pullman. The Cougars won the first match 3-1 and the Wildcats got the 3-0 victory in the second match.