Sofia Maldonado Diaz may have been a little under the radar as a recruit. The fact that U.S. volleyball coaches got to see her so rarely had a lot to do with that. She’s certainly making an impact for the Arizona Wildcats in her first season, though, including being named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week on Tuesday.
Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said that he first saw his emerging star at the SCVA Las Vegas Classic when she was a high school sophomore. By the time she was a senior Chris Tobolski of Volleyball Mag was writing, “If Maldonado was playing for an American club she would very likely be considered the top recruit in the country.”
Her home debut showed why.
Maldonado Diaz averaged 5.00 kills per set on .356 hitting in the two matches against No. 11 Washington, leading the Wildcats in kills in both outings. Her 25 kills on Saturday were the most by any freshman since Nov. 7, 2007, when Tiffany Owens had 25 against Arizona State.
It wasn’t just about her offense, either. Maldonado had been playing out of position as a middle blocker for most of her career with her club and national team in Mexico. That means she had rarely played the back row where digging, passing and serving are the names of the game.
She is being called on to do that at Arizona and she is rising to the occasion. On Saturday, she had her first career double-double by adding 11 digs to her 25 kills. No freshman had compiled at least 20 kills in a double-double since Madi Kingdon did it in 2011.
Her marks weren’t just among the best of any Arizona freshman. No Wildcat, regardless of class, had tallied 25 kills on .400 hitting since 2010. Maldonado Diaz accomplished that by getting her 25 kills on .439 hitting in the five-set loss against Washington.
“Right now, she’s kind of just scratching the surface to how good she could be and will be,” Rubio said. “I’ve always been on the opposing team bench, looking at a player like that, ‘Oh, man, that player is really good.’ And it’s really nice to have someone of that level and that quality of player on our team.”
In addition to her 5.00 kills per set, Maldonado Diaz averaged 1.75 digs, 0.50 blocks and 5.5 points per set over the weekend.
Kamaile Hiapo was the last Wildcat to win Pac-12 Freshman of the Week. She won the award back-to-back on Nov. 18 and Nov. 25, 2019.