A newspaper article from 1993 still sits in the UA volleyball office at McKale Center.
It’s not from the Daily Star, though.
Charita Johnson, now Charita Stubbs, wrote it about how Arizona upset a No. 1-ranked UCLA squad.
Stubbs, an assistant coach, is no journalist. She wasn’t even a journalism major.
Oh, and the article was fake.
Before every game, coach Dave Rubio tasked each player with “inspirationals.” Something to get the team pumped up for the day’s match.
Stubbs was assigned UCLA, on Nov. 7, 1993.
Before, she wrote up a newspaper article that said “Arizona upsets UCLA” on its headline.
“And,” she said, “it actually happened.”
In what might be the biggest win at McKale in UA volleyball history, the Wildcats upset a top-ranked Bruins squad 3-2.
“It was a terrific victory,” Rubio said. “As I look back at it, I think it means more to me now than it did then. I think for the former players, it was a highlight for them and for me as well.”
The more Stubbs — a player then and a Wildcats assistant now — talks about that game, the more she remembers.
She recalled how, after the Wildcats finished 4-14 in Pac-10 play the year before, Rubio promised things would get better. That Arizona would beat the Pac-10 powers — Stanford, UCLA, USC — and make the NCAA tournament.
When they did all of those things in ’93, and made the program’s first-ever Sweet 16, “it made him credible,” she said.
But, more than anything she remembers the celebration. A picture of the scene still hangs in the team’s locker room.
Here’s how the Star described the scene in 1993.
“Arizona athletic director and recently selected NCAA executive director Cedric Dempsey smiled as he eagerly sought Wildcat volleyball coach David Rubio.
The band played. TV cameras were everywhere. UA football standout Tedy Bruschi was on the floor. Tanya Hughes, a world-class UA track athlete, was dancing. You expected balloons to fall from the ceiling.”
Recalled Stubbs, then a junior middle blocker, after practice Tuesday: “As cameras came up to our other middle blocker, Trina Smith, they asked, ‘What are you going to do now?” She said, “ ‘We’re going to Disney World.’ ”
“How cliché can you get?”
It all comes full circle Friday. The Wildcats will face UCLA at McKale Center. Bruschi and his wife Heidi Bruschi (then known as Heidi Bomberger, she was an outside hitter for the UA in ’93) will be in the crowd. Bruschi is being honored at Saturday’s football game against Utah for his College Football Hall of Fame induction.
Rubio will be roaming the sidelines, now in his 22nd year, with Stubbs by his side.
Here’s a look back at that game as it nears its 20th anniversary:
The match: No. 18 Arizona vs. No. 1 UCLA
Date: Nov. 7, 1993
Location: McKale Center
The crowd: 2,676
The build-up: The Wildcats had lost to the Bruins 3-2 one month earlier in Los Angeles. Coming in, Arizona was 13-8, UCLA 21-0. Two days earlier, Arizona beat No. 8 USC and two weeks earlier, they beat No. 2 Stanford.
What happened: The Wildcats were dominated in the first and third sets, 15-5 and 15-9. They won the second and fourth sets 15-7 and 15-6, setting up the decisive fifth set. UCLA took leads of 6-3, 9-6, 11-8 and 13-10 before the Wildcats pulled ahead 14-13. Then, UCLA outside hitter Jenny Johnson had a kill attempt go long, and the match ended.
They said it, from the Star’s archives: “Arizona’s always going to be the underdog no matter what, so we’re trying to make it to the NCAA tournament right now, and prove to everybody we can achieve what we set out to do.” — then-freshman outside hitter Barb Bell
“Whether Arizona can consistently compete in the top half of the conference remains to be seen. David is obviously making strides.” — then-UCLA coach Andy Banachowski.
“UCLA is so confident and so cocky, they just think they are the greatest. Their coach thinks they’re the greatest and they can’t lose to anybody. We beat them, so we’re like, ‘See we told you. We’re good, and we can beat you.’ ” — then-junior outside hitter Melissa Ferris.
The postscript: The Wildcats rallied to their first-ever Sweet 16, setting up a possible Elite Eight rematch with the Bruins. But they fell to BYU, who then beat UCLA in the round of eight. Since then, the Wildcats have beat top-10-ranked UCLA teams six times.
Big number: 18. Straight wins UCLA had against Arizona before the upset.
Big number, part 2: 6. Number of current Wildcats who were born in 1993. One, middle blocker Olivia Magill, was born 12 days after the upset.