His name is Dave Rubio.
Occupation? He’s a clairvoyant.
OK. Rubio is no fortune teller, just a volleyball coach. But, before the Wildcats faced Arizona State and Cal to open Pac-12 play last week, Rubio knew precisely how those matches would play out.
“The matches unfolded exactly as I thought they would,” Rubio said. “That we would be in it all the way to the end, in it to 20 (points) and then the team that can execute to 20-25 is the team that’s going to win.
“And,” he added, smiling, “that’s exactly what happened.”
Arizona, though, didn’t win. They lost both matches in straight sets.
“That never looks good,” Rubio said, “but the good news is we’re close. We put ourselves in position to win. Of the six games, five of them were within our control and we’re not finishing. The margin for error is really small.”
Rubio expects more down-to-the-wire finishes this weekend, when Arizona welcomes Oregon and Oregon State to McKale Center. The Wildcats play the Ducks on Friday and the Beavers on Sunday.
Against the Sun Devils, Arizona (10-4, 0-2 Pac-12) at one point led the first set 12-11, 10-8 in the second, and 14-8 in the third. The Wildcats wound up losing 25-22, 25-21 and 26-24.
Then, against the Golden Bears, Arizona battled to a 23-23 tie in the first set, before an attack error ended it at 25-23. They led the third set 19-13, but allowed Cal to battle back before ending the match with a service error, 25-23. The second set was a blowout, 25-14.
“We’ve just had a problem executing right at the end of matches,” Madi Kingdon said. “We’ve been ahead in games and they’ve come back to beat us. We just have to find a way to finish stronger.”
Tuesday’s practice focused on late-game scenarios, and Rubio said the Wildcats had “maybe one of the best practices of the year,” he said.
All hail the King-don
It’s no secret that Kingdon is Arizona’s leader, if not it’s best player.
The junior outside hitter won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, was a preseason All-Pac-12 selection, leads the conference in points and is second in kills.
In short, she’s been great.
But, she might be carrying too much of the load.
Kingdon has 259 points, and Arizona has 853 as a team. She has scored more than 30 percent of the team’s points all on her own.
That’s far and away the highest individual percentage in the Pac-12. The next closest is Cal’s Adrienne Gehan, whose 184.5 points account for 27.8 percent of the Golden Bears’ team tally.
“We become very limited when our players aren’t scoring other than Madi,” Rubio said. “We gotta set the middle more and we gotta get more opposite the middle as well.”
The key will be Jane Croson, Arizona’s other starting opposite hitter, stepping up. She’s second on the team with 115 points, 3.29 per set.
To start the Cal match, Croson and Kingdon were equally dominant — they both had seven kills out of the gate. But, where Kingdon went on to finish with 19 kills, Croson only had eight.
Added Penina Snuka, a freshman setter: “Madi does carry the team but it’s also the people that surround her. The more I continue to get other players involved, the more we’ll just continue to get better and execute.”
Defense looks good
Through 14 matches, the Wildcats have been top notch on defense — third in opponent hitting percentage, fourth in blocks and first in digs.
“We’re stopping people,” Rubio said. “We’re taking teams and putting them 100 points behind their average.
“But,” he added. “We’re not scoring enough.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the Wildcats are in the bottom three of the conference in all offensive categories, including a tie for last with Oregon State in hitting percentage (.228).
“Even though we’re defending, we’re not transitioning enough and converting those digs and points being scored,” Rubio said. “That’s something we gotta work on. Our game is gonna be built on precision and consistency.”