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Zyonna Fellows makes her last trip home as a member of Arizona volleyball

arizona-wildcats-volleyball-zyonna-fellows-washington-state-home-seattle Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

It’s a bit of deja vu for Zyonna Fellows. The fifth-year middle blocker from Seattle thought last season would be her last. She went through senior day festivities and what she thought would be her final time experiencing a number of things on the volleyball court. One of them was returning home to the state of Washington to play in front of friends and family.

This year it really is the last time for Fellows and she wants to make the most of it.

“I don’t even know the word to describe it,” Fellows said. “It just feels amazing, honestly. But the more that I think about it, the more I kind of get sad because it’s slowly coming to an end. And it’s like I just had my senior night last year when I didn’t know if I was going to play a fifth year, so I’m gonna have to go through that again, and it’s kind of heartbreaking.”

Coming back for a fifth year has had a huge impact on both Fellows and her teammates. Her performance and leadership have taken a huge leap forward. Arizona head coach Dave Rubio thinks she’s advanced so much that the sky is the limit for her if she decides to continue volleyball after she leaves school.

“The only thing that holds Zyonna back is Zyonna,” Rubio said. “I think she’s capable of playing for the national team. Six-foot-four, terrific arm, good blocker, good mobility. You compare her to Cursty Jackson who was with the national team for five years, played for me. Cursty’s biggest thing is she’s a terrific athlete, but she was such a great competitor and really believed in herself. Zyonna, if she can just continue to gain confidence in that area, then she’s going to be a great pro if that’s something she wants to do. She’ll make some really good money overseas if that’s something that she wants to pursue. She could be that good.”

The athletic part of being a pro isn’t what concerns Fellows. It’s the moving on that bothers her.

“I’m thinking about it,” she said. “It’s just hard for me to think about because it’s like closing this door and going on to something totally different. When I first got to college, I had nobody but my team, and then I grew friendships and family and now I got to do that all over again if I go pro. So that’s the hardest part is being so far and having to do that.”

She hasn’t yet reached out to former Wildcat volleyball players who have gone on to pro careers but she has started putting feelers out about the process of going overseas as a professional athlete.

“I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to, but now that I’m leaning more towards it, I’m definitely going to reach out to them and see,” Fellows said. “I haven’t talked to any volleyball players, but I have some guy friends that played professionally so I’ve asked them for advice, like how is it and they’ve all told me about it.”

Her super senior season should certainly impress pro teams. Fellows has improved her skills and her intangibles this year. On the court, she’s averaging 1.68 kills per set, which is the highest of her career. That places her in the top 50 in Pac-12 volleyball and third on the team.

Last season, Fellows had just 0.99 k/s. She has only had more than one kill per set once her entire career. That was 1.36 k/s in the shortened 2020 season that was played in the spring of 2021 due to the pandemic.

Her blocking has also improved. She is averaging 1.32 blocks per set this season, which is also a career high. That lands Fellows in the top five in the Pac-12, placing her fourth in the league in blocks per set. Last season was the first time she averaged over a block per set when she had 1.05 per set.

Fellows has made her mark in the Arizona record book along the way. In last Sunday’s win over California, she had 12 blocks in a three-set match. She trails only Dominique Lamb for most blocks in a three-set match. Lamb had 13 against Oregon State on Oct. 26, 2007.

Fellows joined five other Wildcats for fifth-most blocks in a match, but the others all did it in four- and five-set matches. Associate head coach Rita (Johnson) Stubbs had 12 blocks in three different games over her career, all coming in four sets.

Rubio was more impressed by how she bounced back from a sub-par match against Stanford two days before she set that mark. Like her leadership, that ability to have confidence in herself and rebound from disappointment has grown in her final season in Tucson.

“I told her that I felt like all those demons of self-doubt came back to haunt you in the Stanford match,” Rubio said. “And right after the Stanford match, an hour later, she’s watching film and sending me film on her phone and asking me questions, and then it was obvious that she has really spent time watching film because of how well she played in the Cal game. There were some situations that were very similar in the Stanford game where she made maybe the wrong move or made the wrong decision. That same situation came up in the Cal game and she responded correctly. I told her that the great players, it is not whether or not you have a bad game. You’re gonna have a bad game. It’s whether or not you’re going to try to take the steps necessary to become better the next time that you play, and that’s what great players do.”

Fellows is looking forward to showing her friends and family that in person. She’s also looking forward to a belated birthday celebration with them while she’s back home. After that, she just wants to see the Wildcats close out her final year on a strong note.

“We have to get all the puzzle pieces together,” Fellows said. “Normally in the game there’s like one or two puzzle pieces missing, and so once we all get those pieces together, I feel like we’ll have a successful match and a successful season. I really believe that we are going to turn it around in the second round coming up because we played the teams. We know what they do.”

Arizona Wildcats (12-7, 2-6 Pac-12) @ Washington State Cougars (13-6, 5-3 Pac-12)

When: Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. MST

Where: Bohler Gym in Pullman, Wash.

TV: The match will air on Pac-12 Arizona.

Stats: In-game stats are available on Washington State Live Stats.

Rankings: Neither team is ranked in the AVCA poll, but Washington State is receiving votes. The Cougars are receiving the 29th-most points. WSU is No. 45 in the RPI while UA is No. 92.

Arizona Wildcats (12-7, 2-6 Pac-12) @ Washington Huskies (14-4, 6-2 Pac-12)

When: Sunday, Oct. 23 at 12 p.m. MST

Where: Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle, Wash.

TV: The match will air on Pac-12 Washington.

Stats: In-game stats are available on Washington Live Stats.

Rankings: Washington is ranked No. 15 in the AVCA poll. The Huskies are No. 21 in the RPI while Arizona is No. 92.

How to follow along

Follow us on Twitter @AZDesertSwarm for all things Arizona Wildcats. For live tweets of volleyball matches and news throughout the week, follow our deputy editor @KimDoss71.