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Arizona volleyball still aiming at the postseason as they head to USC, UCLA

Kamaile Hiapo of Arizona volleyball
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

It’s going to be an uphill climb. Arizona volleyball started the season with several goals. One was to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. That goal is slipping, but the players have not abandoned it.

“Certainly mathematically it is achievable,” head coach Dave Rubio said. “I think we needed to go 7-3 in the second half of the season. I think we’re 3-3 right now. I was explaining to them yesterday that had we taken care of business against Notre Dame and El Paso, now we’re sitting at 17-10 and not 15-12. And the prospects of going to the NCAA Tournament look a lot different at 17-10.”

Going 7-3 in the second half would mean sweeping USC, UCLA, Oregon, and ASU to end the regular season. That’s a tall task, especially since three of those matches are on the road. The players are not ready to relent no matter how formidable the climb might look.

“That’s certainly something we’re working towards,” sophomore setter Emery Herman said. “It’s something that hasn’t left our minds. So working towards that every day, expecting to win out. I just know that we’ve worked so hard this season to be able to prove that on the scoreboard. Just finish out.”

Going into their final full weekend on the road, the Wildcats are 7-9 in a Pac-12 conference that isn’t quite as strong as it has been in past years. While they are tied for seventh in the league, they stand at No. 88 in the RPI. Most at-large teams are inside the top 50.

There is time to improve that RPI. Just playing UCLA, which is No. 10, and No. 22 Oregon will help. Winning would do wonders, but those teams are No. 10 and No. 22 for a reason. To make matters worse, the Thanksgiving holiday means the Wildcats must play three matches over the next five days, all of them on the road.

Before they even get to UCLA and Oregon on Sunday and Tuesday, the Wildcats must focus on USC. The Women of Troy are an older team with six graduate students on the roster.

After playing a 3 p.m. match against Utah at home last Friday, Arizona will play USC at 9 p.m. MST this Friday. Rubio is much happier with the late start time than the lack of a home-court advantage that the Wildcats dealt with against Utah last week.

If the Wildcats can get past USC with a victory, they still face the formidable task of UCLA. Last time the two teams played, both were shorthanded. Arizona should be full strength this time, but the Bruins will be missing freshman phenom Charitie Luper. While Luper is great, UCLA still has super senior Mac May.

“That’s like saying we only got LeBron James, relatively speaking,” Rubio joked.


Arizona (15-12, 7-9 Pac-12) at USC (11-14, 7-9 Pac-12)

Date and Time

Friday, Nov. 19 at 9 p.m. MST

Location

Galen Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Broadcast

The game will air on Pac-12 Los Angeles.

Stats

In-game stats are available on Arizona Live Stats

RPI, rankings, and Pac-12 standings

USC is No. 70 in RPI. The Women of Troy are tied with Arizona for seventh in the conference.

Rubio says

“They’re good. I mean, they’re solid. They have a freshman setter, Mia Tuaniga, who I felt was the number one setter in the class coming out...and she’s terrific. But she’s not an older player. She’s a young player and makes her fair share of setting mistakes. Outside hitters are really good. Brooke Botkin is a fifth-year kid and a super senior and she’s terrific, and their opposite is a junior from Germany and she’s really good... So it doesn’t get any easier for us is basically what I’m saying. It’s kind of, got to play well in order to compete.”


Arizona (15-12, 7-9 Pac-12) at UCLA (20-4, 13-3 Pac-12)

Date and Time

Sunday, Nov. 21 at 1 p.m. MST

Location

John Wooden Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Broadcast:

Neither the UCLA nor the Arizona websites list live stream or TV availability for the match. A radio broadcast is available on UCLA’s Leanplayer site.

Stats

In-game stats are available on UCLA Live Stats

RPI, rankings, and Pac-12 standings

UCLA is No. 13 in the AVCA rankings and No. 10 in the RPI. They are tied with Washington for first in the conference standings.

Rubio says

“They have a really good supporting cast around them...And they’ve got some age, talent, so that’s why I think they’re the best team in the conference if they’re healthy.”


How to follow along with us:

Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm or on our Facebook page for regular coverage during the week. For live tweets during games and other coverage, follow our deputy editor on Twitter @KimDoss71.