The Arizona Wildcats (9-9) will host USC (4-8) twice this weekend in their final home volleyball matches of the season. Seniors Paige Whipple and Akia Warrior will be honored on Sunday.
The Women of Troy have been inconsistent this season. They have lost most of their matches against the top of the league, but are coming off a five-set victory over No. 17 UCLA. They have also pushed No. 8 Washington, No. 12 Utah and No. 16 Oregon to five sets in at least one match.
The Wildcats have won four straight and five of their last six to play their way into the postseason picture.
What the participants expect
- Rubio’s take: “I was telling the players today that you could put USC in the same place as you do UCLA or Oregon or Utah or Washington. Washington State probably belongs. I mean they’re really experienced, skilled and talented team, and so it’s going to be a handful for us. I mean, I’ve said that about a few teams. And this is going to be a team that’s going to give us everything we can handle. It’s a bit of a mismatch for us because of their size and how much experience they bring to the table. I mean they’re really old and they’re very talented, very athletic. So it’s gonna be a hard match on Friday and one on Sunday, as well. We’re gonna have to be really well-prepared for us to compete with these guys.”
- Whipple on playing against former Wildcat teammate Candice Denny, who transferred to USC: “There’s pros and cons. Pros: you know how they play. Cons: they know how you play. So, it’ll be an interesting matchup this weekend. Katie Smoot is at Cal and we played them last weekend, but she’s playing beach and so that was kind of a ‘woo! Don’t have play against Katie!’ But now Candice being at USC, it’ll be different because last year she sat out so we didn’t see her on the floor. So this would be the first time actually competing against her and it’ll be an interesting dynamic between Dave and Rita (Stubbs) and me and those who have coached her and played with her. I’m the only one on the team besides Malina (Kalei Ua) who has played with her. So to other people, she’s just number four on the scouting report, but to some of us, an old teammate, an old friend. So it’ll be definitely an interesting dynamic.”
More laurels for Sofia
Freshman outside hitter Sofia Maldonado Diaz won her third Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award on Tuesday. No Wildcat had ever won more than two weekly awards in a single season.
Maldonado Diaz won the award by contributing 2.83 kills per set on .157 hitting last week at California when the Wildcats swept the Golden Bears. She also had eight total service aces, a huge 1.33 per set. The kills, aces and one block accounted for 4.3 points per set.
The high regard Maldonado Diaz is held in by the coaches around the league puts her in a good position to challenge for the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, an award not won by a Wildcat since Kim Glass in 2002. Glass was also the national Freshman of the Year that season.
Maldonado Diaz’ strongest competition for the conference award is probably Washington’s Madi Endsley. Endsley has also won the award three times this season.
How to follow the match
- Date/Time: Friday, Mar. 26 at 6 p.m. MST and Sunday, Mar. 28 at 12 p.m. MST
- Location: McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.
- Streaming: Both matches will be streamed on Arizona Live Stream
- Stats: In-match stats will be available via Arizona Live Stats
- Twitter: Follow us at @AZDesertSwarm. You can also follow our editor at @RKelapire and our reporter at @KimDoss71 for coverage during the game and throughout the season.