These aren’t last year’s Wildcats.
That team started 1-5 in Pac-12 play and never recovered.
This one started 0-2, with losses to ASU and Cal.
If the weekend sweep of UCLA and then-No.1 USC proves anything, it’s that this Arizona team is no 2012-13 retread.
“We didn’t feel like we should’ve lost those games,” said senior libero Candace Nicholson
Since that Oh-fer to start Pac-12 play, Arizona is 5-1, including Sunday’s upset 3-0 win against USC, the Wildcats first against them since 2009.
And, as to be expected after sweeping a top-ranked team, the good times kept rolling for the UA into Monday.
The Wildcats made their first appearance in the AVCA Top 25 coaches poll, coming in at No. 25, and their RPI rose from 30 to 17. USC dropped to No. 4 (from No. 1) in both.
Come November, RPI is typically one of the major determining factors for the NCAA selection committee. Right now, Arizona (15-5, 5-3 Pac-12) is sitting pretty.
“I think SC is a team that can win the national championship,” head coach Dave Rubio said. “I think they’re that good. So that win from an NCAA RPI standpoint and the weight of the win, that’s big for the committee. That’s a huge win for us.”
Kingdon, Snuka receive Pac-12 weekly honors
For the second time this season, outside hitter Madi Kingdon and setter Penina Snuka shared in receiving Pac-12 honors, this time coming on the heels of impressive performances in the weekend sweeps of UCLA and USC.
Kingdon was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. She had 13 kills against UCLA and 20 against USC — including 10 in the UA’s second-set victory. She recorded a .333 hitting percentage on the weekend, and added 15 digs and three service aces.
The 33 combined kills helped Kingdon jump to first place in the conference in kills (317) and kills per set (4.53). She remained in first in points (373, 5.34 per set) as well.
Snuka was named Freshman Player of the Week after recording double-doubles in both matches. She had 30 assists against UCLA, and followed that up with 43 against USC — tying a Pac-12 record for most assists in a three-set match.
“Penina has been kind of living up to every expectation that I’ve had of her coming in,” Rubio said. “She’s really changing the mindset of our group. The defense is a product of her.”
That defense is second in the Pac-12 in opponent hitting percentage, first in digs and fourth in blocks.
The Wildcats travel to Boulder, Colo., this weekend to face Colorado (12-6, 4-4) and then Salt Lake City for Utah (15-5, 4-4).
Arizona State on the ropes
Arizona State has lost six of seven matches since sweeping the UA on Sept. 24. The Sun Devils (13-7, 2-6) come to Tucson for the final game of the regular season on Nov. 29.
Lucky pink jerseys?
The Wildcats beat USC and UCLA wearing pink jerseys for breast cancer awareness. Maybe they’re lucky.
“I’m not sure, but maybe in November we’re gonna have to extend cancer awareness to a half year,” Rubio said. “We’ll see.”