Arizona Volleyball: Wildcats sweep their way through Cactus Classic


The 2021 season opened up for Arizona Volleyball, as they start 3-0 defeating Marist, New Mexico State, and UC San Diego all in sweeps, opening Dave Rubio’s 30th season with a bang.

A season that looks to culminate in a possible NCAA Tournament, the Arizona Volleyball team opened the season in sweeping fashion with a trio of wins against mid-major programs.

Finally getting to play again in front of a great crowd at the McKale Center, the good news is that the Wildcats were able to continue to build as the matches went on. Head coach Dave Rubio looks to have the team on the right trajectory as long as we see continued growth from these Wildcats.

Opening up the 2021 campaign Friday afternoon, the Wildcats took on the Marist Red Foxes from the MAAC.

Led by Jaelyn Hodge’s 14 kills and 3 blocks, the Wildcats won the match 25-11, 25-15, and 25-23. Emery Herman directed the offense picking up right where she ended the spring season by dishing out 25 assists while adding a pair of blocks for the match. Puk Stubbe and Ava Tortorello made their Wildcats debuts, as Stubbe drew the start, and Tortorello got into one set.

In the finale of the evening, the Wildcats took on WAC foe New Mexico State in their first of two matches on the season against the Aggies. Arizona limited the Aggies to hitting just .019 on their way to their second sweep of the early season winning 25-19, 25-14, and 25-20.

Stubbe led the way on the Wildcats’ attack with 13 kills and a .435 hitting percentage. Herman once again directed the offense with 33 assists, putting her total for the day with 58 assists. Elena Shklyar made her Wildcats debut against the Aggies chipping in with a pair of digs.

Saturday afternoon saw the Wildcats close out the Cactus Classic by taking on the Big West’s UC San Diego. Defeating the Tritons 25-17, 25-13, and 25-16 in what was far and away their most dominant performance of the weekend, Arizona hit .380 for the match, including an incredible .536 with 0 attacking errors in the second set.

Hodge once again paced the Wildcats with 13 kills while hitting .344, while Herman paced the Wildcats with 26 assists. Ava and Elena both picked up their first career Wildcats assists, and Nicole Briggs showed her immense potential in her Arizona debut as she hit .800 with her first four career kills.

Depth shows early promise for Arizona Volleyball with perhaps more to come

Imagine showing so much promise and an attack so varied that the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the year is not the top performer, yet still had a very strong start to her sophomore season. That is just how Sophia Maldonado Diaz’s weekend went.

Posting 22 kills on the season while hitting a very respectable .278 so far, Diaz is averaging more than two kills per set and is averaging an ace per set as well. She is showing the continued progress she has made to become that much stronger of an all-around player.

With four newcomer Wildcats also making their debuts on opening weekend, Coach Rubio is just scratching the surface on the levels of depth he can roll out to change up the look of the squad.

With plenty more to debut from yet another very strong recruiting class, the Wildcats are poised to make some noise in the Pac-12.

The Weidt Stuff

One thing that stood out during the weekend was the influence that senior Merle Weidt brings to the court. Being a solid and steady presence while also being in control of the game, Weidt has already endeared herself to the Arizona Athletic Department leading her to being named the Arizona SAAC President.

Merle has shown that her presence will be a key to the Wildcats’ chances at making the NCAA Tournament in 2021 as she finished the Cactus Classic hitting .429 with 11 kills. She also added an impressive 10 blocks through the first three matches.

What’s Next

The Wildcats take flight to Las Cruces, NM next weekend as they visit New Mexico State, and in addition to their second match with the Aggies, the Wildcats will take on their first Power 5 program of the season when they square off against Northwestern.

The Wildcats will cap off next weekend’s action when they square off with UTEP! We are thrilled the Wildcats started so hot in the 2021 season, and as always, Bear Down, Arizona!

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