On a busy afternoon for Arizona Athletics, the Wildcats started off Territorial Cup day on a strong note. Arizona volleyball dominated Arizona State in a 3-0 (25-11, 25-16, 27-25) win on senior day. The match gave the Wildcats the season sweep of the Sun Devils.
In addition to sending its three seniors out on a high note on senior day, Arizona improved to 16-15 on the year, making the team eligible for the NIVC Tournament. It’s an opportunity that head coach Dave Rubio is looking forward to, getting more matches and practice for his young team. He hopes to follow in the steps of Arizona women’s basketball coach Adia Barnes, who used a successful WNIT run in 2018-19 to lift her program.
“We’ll find out kind of where we’re going,” Rubio said. “We’re hoping to host, so we’ll see how that goes. So, hopefully that’s the same, the whole springboard, like it was for women’s basketball.”
It will also give Zyonna Fellows, Malina Kalei Ua, and Merle Weidt at least one more chance to wear the Block A. The three seniors are going different directions next season. Fellows said that she’s still mulling over whether she will return, but that her parents want her to play another year. Kalei Ua will look for internships as she pursues a career in event planning. Weidt is headed to the University of Denver to get her graduate degree and play her final year.
“I looked out on the floor, and I was really happy for all the seniors,” Rubio said. “I was happy for our future because of all those players coming back. I was happy that those guys leave a legacy. We talked a lot about the future. That kind of gets them down because they’re really not a part of it, but the legacy they left was something that they can really be proud of.”
They are an important part of the present. On Saturday, they were all instrumental in the Wildcats’ dominating performance. Fellows had five total blocks, two digs, and two kills. One of her blocks and one of her kills came when Kalei Ua served four straight points in the third set. Kalei Ua also had six digs.
Weidt had six kills on .500 hitting. It was her 14th match of hitting over .400 this season, and the first one that her parents got to witness in McKale Center.
“It’s always great to play in front of your parents,” Weidt said. “And for me, just having them finally come to visit Arizona. They’ve been wanting to come for one-and-a-half years and they couldn’t because of COVID. And so having them come all the way from Germany and being here for my senior night, it was just really, really special.”
It was a team win for the Wildcats, who had their three young pin hitters put on strong performances at the same time. For much of the season, Sofia Maldonado Diaz, Jaelyn Hodge, and Puk Stubbe have alternated in having an off night. None had an off day against the Sun Devils.
“All three of those players are kind of in the same stage of their development,” Rubio said. “And so I felt like they traveled a long road. Today was the best all three of them have played from every skill—from passing, the defense, attacking, the blocking. All of them were significantly better than the first time they played ASU.”
Stubbe led the team with a match-high 13 kills on .407 hitting. She added three total blocks for 14.5 points, and contributed an assist and five digs.
Maldonado Diaz had a huge double-double with 11 kills and 18 digs. She added three aces, an assist, and a solo block. Her 15 points were a match high, as were her digs.
Hodge finished with 10 kills, an ace, and two total blocks—one of them solo—for a total of 12.5 points. She also had three digs.
Sophomore setter Emery Herman also had a double-double with 30 assists and 14 digs. She threw in two kills, an ace, and one block for 3.5 points.
Libero Kamaile Hiapo came up big with 7 assists, a match-high 4 aces without a service error, and 14 digs.
It was a festive occasion for the Wildcat faithful. Despite the fact that the ninth-ranked women’s basketball team was playing at 1:15 p.m., the football team was set to play ASU at 2 p.m., and the 17th-ranked men’s basketball team was due at McKale Center at 5:30, the arena was filled with 1,849 loud fans. Cheers were led by the members of the men’s swimming team, who sat at the south end of McKale Center in their swimsuits.
After ending his 30th regular season at Arizona on a high note, Rubio is looking toward the future for him and his team. Retirement is not on that agenda.
“I gotta come back just so I can reap the rewards,” he said.