In a departure from recent years, Arizona volleyball has released an almost complete schedule for fall 2023 over two months before the season starts. In another change under first-year head coach Rita Stubbs, the slate is more challenging than those the Wildcats have faced in several years.
As the nonconference schedule currently stands, UA will play four teams that finished in the top 65 of last season’s RPI. Just as importantly, only one of the current out-of-conference opponents finished outside the top 150 in the 2022 RPI.
Three of Arizona’s out-of-conference foes made last year’s NCAA Tournament. That group is headlined by Wisconsin, which advanced to the Elite Eight one year after winning its first NCAA championship. It also includes Iowa State and Miami. The Cyclones were a three seed in last year’s tournament while the Hurricanes earned a seven seed.
Those numbers could change when Stubbs adds the final three games to the schedule. The participants in the Wildcat Classic are currently to be announced, although Long Beach State is rumored to be one of them. That tournament is Arizona’s final trio of matches before Pac-12 play kicks off. It runs from Sept. 15 through Sept. 16.
When Pac-12 matches are added, the Wildcats will face a total of nine opponents who made last year’s NCAA Tournament. Those opponents will be across the net in 13 of Arizona’s 31 matches.
The season tips off with the Cactus Classic on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26. The tournament features UC Davis, North Carolina, and Pacific. The Tar Heels appear to be the big opponent in this tournament. They ended last season at No. 65 in the RPI. UNC defeated Arizona 3-2 in Chapel Hill last year.
Arizona stays in the state but goes on the road to play in a tournament at Grand Canyon from Sept. 1-3. The Wildcats play Iowa State to start things off, then face LIU Brooklyn and GCU. At No. 271 in last year's final RPI, LIU is the only team currently on Arizona’s out-of-conference schedule that fell outside the top 150. Iowa State finished at No. 31.
UA stays on the road and ratchets up the competition level yet again in the third week of the season. The Wildcats will travel to Madison, Wisc. to face the Wisconsin Badgers and the Miami Hurricanes on Sept. 7 and Sept. 9, respectively. The Badgers were No. 14 in the final RPI of last season while the Hurricanes were No. 35.
The team returns to Tucson for the Wildcat Classic against as yet unknown teams on Sept. 15-16. Pac-12 play follows the next week.
The Wildcats start conference play with the first of their rivalry matches at Arizona State on Thursday, Sept. 21. The two teams split their matches last season, each winning on the other’s home court.
On Sunday, Sept. 24, Arizona has its Pac-12 home opener against Washington State. The Cougars finished at No. 34 in the RPI last year and earned a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Both the conference opener at ASU and the conference home opener against WSU will air on Pac-12 Arizona.
The second weekend of Pac-12 play has the Wildcats on the road at California and Stanford. The Cardinal returned to form after an underwhelming (for them) 2021 fall season and a very tough 2021 spring season. In 2022, they earned a No. 1 seed in the tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight.
UCLA and USC come to Tucson on Friday, Oct. 6 and Sunday, Oct. 8. The UCLA match will air on Pac-12 Network, but the USC match may be the more compelling of the two. It will be the first time Arizona transfers Jordan Wilson and Kalen Owes face their former team. The weekend will mark the final visit to McKale Center for both schools before they leave for the Big Ten.
Road contests on Friday, Oct. 13 and Sunday, Oct. 15 again feature the Wildcats on TV in what will be a string of four televised matches. They go to Eugene to face Oregon on Pac-12 Network first then follow up with a match against Oregon State in Corvallis that will air on Pac-12 Arizona.
The final two matches in the four-match series of televised contests will also be on the road. UA visits Colorado on Friday, Oct. 20 and Utah on Sunday, Oct. 22. The Wildcats and Buffaloes will be on Pac-12 Mountain, while Arizona and the Utes will play on Pac-12 Arizona. That will wrap up the first half of conference play.
The final 10 games of conference play will have all the same opponents except for Washington State. Instead, Arizona will travel to Washington for its single game against the Huskies on Wednesday, Nov. 22 before tying up league play at home against ASU on Saturday, Nov. 25
Televised matches over the final half of Pac-12 play include the Nov. 5 match at UCLA (Pac-12 Los Angeles), Utah’s Nov. 9 trip to Tucson (Pac-12 Network), and the rivalry match against ASU (Pac-12 Arizona). All non-televised matches in both conference and nonconference play that take place McKale Center will be streamed on Arizona Live Stream.