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Arizona volleyball gets commitment from 2023 middle blocker Journey Tucker just one year after her diagnosis with a brain tumor

arizona-volleyball-dave-rubio-retires-31-years Photo by Ryan Kelapire

It’s a story that few can or would want to match. Local news reports tell the story of Journey Tucker. The talented middle blocker for Spiral Volleyball in Chandler, Ariz. and Verrado High School in Buckeye was on her way to a tournament in Tennessee last January when she suffered a seizure. It turned out to be a type of brain tumor called pilocytic astrocytoma—the same cancer that killed her older sister Aleya at the age of 14.

Almost exactly one year later—and just 10 months after her surgery—Spiral Volleyball announced that Tucker has committed to Arizona volleyball. The Instagram post was liked by Arizona associate head coach Rita Stubbs.

On her Sports Recruits page, Tucker wrote about her skills and her plans for the future.

“I love this game!” she wrote. “I have been playing for a couple of years now and enjoy playing defense, I love competing against my opponents across the net from me and taking on their best hitter and getting that block. I’m a 6’3 middle middle blocker that is smart, athletic, very quick and enjoy learning what I can in this game. I am eager to continue playing in college as I pursue Science degree to go into the pharmaceutical or anesthesiological field.”

Over the course of her high school career, Tucker had 1.8 kills per set on .398 hitting in 178 sets played. She also had 1.1 blocks per set.

Despite undergoing surgery in March 2022, she had bounced back for a strong season just months later as a senior. She was responsible for 1.9 k/s on .406 hitting and 1.3 b/s. The blocks per set and hitting percentage were the highest of her four-year career with the Vipers.

Tucker’s numbers weren’t just the best on her team. She was ranked second in total blocks in Arizona 5A with 116. Forty-one of those blocks were solo. Her .406 hitting percentage was fifth in the 5A conference. That earned her First Team honors in the 5A Desert West Region.

Tucker comes to the Wildcats at positions of need. Her recruiting profiles indicate that she plays middle blocker and opposite. With Zyonna Fellows exhausting her eligibility and China Rai Crouch in the transfer portal, Arizona has just two middle blockers on the roster.

Last year’s starter at MB2, Alayna Johnson, will return along with fellow junior-to-be Nicole Briggs. Rising sophomore Lauren Rumel played both middle blocker and pin in high school, making her a possibility at middle. However, she has only played at pin at Arizona.

Puk Stubbe was brought in to play the opposite position when Crouch was out on maternity leave in the fall of 2021. With Crouch dealing with getting back into shape, a concussion, and some illnesses last season and Stubbe struggling, head coach Dave Rubio spent much of the season trying to find a set of three starting pins who could be consistently effective.

Highlights from Tucker’s play with Spiral Volleyball are available on her HUDL page.