Arizona Volleyball opened up its season with a show of defensive force on Day One of the Cactus Classic at the McKale Center.
The Arizona Volleyball program opened up year 31 for head coach Dave Rubio with a defensive showcase at the Cactus Classic. The Wildcats took control early on with blocking and stellar defense to get off to a 2-0 start on the season.
Though their hitting still appears to be a work in progress, the Wildcats were still able to showcase their potential, and the major progress made during the offseason both in the serving and on defense allowed them to seize control of both matches.
Sharks No Match for Arizona Volleyball Net Presence
Squaring off against one of the NEC’s best in LIU, Arizona flexed its defensive prowess as they cruised to a 25-16 win in the first set behind three blocks thanks in large part to the Middle’s setting the tone.
Last season, the serving game tended to be the Wildcats’ kryptonite; however, in the first set, the only serving error was on an aggressive Ana Heath jump serve, the first of her career. Stubbe and Hodge each added a service ace.
The second set started on a 5-0 run thanks in large part to the serving of Sofia Maldonado Diaz, which included an ace during the run. Following the Sharks winning the serve, it turned into the Hodge show as a pair of kills and a block saw the Wildcats out to an 8-1 lead early on.
The second set also saw Nicole Briggs give way to Alayna Johnson, as Coach Rubio looks to see who will take the reigns of the second Middle Blocker spot opposite Zyonna Fellows.
After the Sharks closed the gap to 13-8, Heath showed just how much of a potential game-changer she is with a pair of aces, allowing the ‘Cats to jump out to a 16-8 lead.
The block party continued for Arizona from there, as Fellows and Herman both added a pair of kills for the Wildcats.
Normally one of the main go-to’s for the Wildcats’ offense, Sofia Maldonado Diaz turned to her serving game as she struggled by her incredibly high standards in the attacking game with a pair of aces. Emery Herman gave way to Ava Tortorello who found Fellows to finish off the second set for the Wildcats, as they downed the Sharks 25-10.
The third set provided more of the same, as the Wildcats found their footing early jumping out to a commanding 13-9 lead that sent them on their way to a 25-18 set win, giving the Wildcats not just the sweep, but also allowing for meaningful playing time for players such as Tortorello and Heath, as they gave Emery the set-off.
For the match, the Wildcats hit a very solid .293 while adding in nine service aces, and seven team blocks.
However, pacing the Wildcats on the day was none other than Hodge who would hit a stellar .522 with 13 kills. She also chipped in with two blocks for the Wildcats, while Fellows also hit an eye-popping .700 with eight kills in her 10 total attempts with a single error, while also joining in the block party with three of her own.
Emery Herman paced the setting trio with 17 assists, while Heath chipped in with 10 of her own, and Ava Tortorello added seven for the match. Defensively, it was yet another edition of the Kamaile Hiapo show with 12 digs and a pair of assists to pace the backcourt.
NMSU was no match for Wildcats in Night Cap
The closing match on the first day of the Cactus Classic was one for the Wildcats’ young guns. Giving way for Heath and Johnson to show off, together, the two paced the Wildcats to their second sweep of the day as they downed the Aggies 25-14, 25-19, 25-19 to improve to 2-0 on the young season.
The defense was yet again the key to this one, as the Wildcats held NMSU to just a .033 hitting percentage, with nine blocks on the evening.
Johnson paced the Wildcats with a spectacular .571 hitting percentage with eight kills on 14 attempts in an errorless showing out of the Middle, while Stubbe followed Johnson with seven kills for the Wildcats.
Herman paced the setting game again, taking on the full match and dishing out 23 assists on the day, while the electric serving display of Heath was on display yet again as she added four more aces in a sparkling debut day for the Wildcats.
The Wildcats return to action Saturday afternoon at 2:00 PM as they take on the Hornets of Alabama State out of the SWAC. Bear Down, Arizona!