Aug. 22, 2012
TUCSON, Ariz. – The Arizona volleyball team will open its 2012 season by hosting the Wildcat Classic inside McKale Center on Friday and Saturday. The Wildcats will welcome in Cal State Northridge, Evansville and Utah Valley for the two-day event.
Arizona will open the tournament against Evansville on Friday at 10:30 a.m. before taking on Cal State Northridge during the night session at 7:00 p.m. The Cats will close out the tournament on Saturday against Utah Valley at 7:00 p.m.
Head coach Dave Rubio, who is entering his 21st season at the helm of the U of A program, led the team to a 19-13 overall record in 2011, including a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.
Friday’s matchup between Arizona and Evansville marks the second straight season that the two squads have met. Last year, the Wildcats played in the Evansville Dunn Hospitality Invitational, where they won the tournament title after going a perfect 3-0. UA defeated Evansville 3-1 during the event, which was the only time the two schools have met. The Purple Aces finished with a 14-19 overall record in 2011.
In the Friday nightcap, Arizona will be facing Cal State Northridge for the fifth time in school history and first time since 1996. The Matadors finished the 2011 season with a 16-13 overall record and were picked to finish third in the Big West preseason poll. Cal State Northridge returns all six starters plus its libero from last season’s team. Coach Rubio is a 1982 graduate of Cal State Northridge.
Utah Valley had a strong 2011 campaign as the Wolverines finished 23-9 and won the Great West Conference with a 9-1 league mark. Saturday’s matchup will be the first time in history that Arizona and Utah Valley will meet.
Despite having a youthful squad, the Wildcats return some key components from last year’s team. Sophomore Madi Kingdon (Phoenix, Ariz.) and junior Candace Nicholson (Long Beach, Calif.) lead an extremely young but talented squad, which features 10 newcomers including seven freshmen. The Wildcats do not feature a single senior on this year’s team. Kingdon was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team after leading the team in kills per set (3.44), while recording 248 digs, which were third most on the team. Meanwhile, Nicholson led the team with 406 digs (3.94 p/s). Nicholson is the only member of the 2012 squad that has spent two years in the program. Sophomore Rachel Rhoades (San Diego, Calif.) is the only other returning starter. Rhoades recorded 100 kills and finished second on the squad with 74 blocks in 2011.
Among the newcomers are three transfers from other Division I institutions. Chanel Brown (Phoenix, Ariz./University of Florida), Alyse Hensley (San Diego, Calif./Loyola Marymount) and Emily Kiser (Golden, Colo./Sacramento State) will be looked to for leadership and stability. Brown was a member of the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2010 at the University of Florida.
Meanwhile, freshmen Halli Amaro (Los Alamitos, Calif.), Emily Bemis (DeKalb, Ill.), Lauren Fuller (Los Angeles, Calif.), Olivia Magill (Seattle, Wash.), Aubrey McKinney (Mill Valley, Calif.), Stevie Stier (Bakersfield, Calif.) and Kendall Walwick (San Diego, Calif.) are a talented group that will be called upon to compete for playing time, while also providing much needed depth.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat volleyball, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and be sure to follow the team on Twitter @ArizonaVBall.
2012 Wildcat Classic (August 24-25)
Friday (August 24)
10:30 a.m. MST - Arizona vs. Evansville (Live Stats)
12:30 p.m. MST – Cal State Northridge vs. Utah Valley (Live Stats)
4:30 p.m. MST – Utah Valley vs. Evansville (Live Stats)
7:00 p.m. MST – Arizona vs. Cal State Northridge (Live Stats)
Saturday (August 25)
1:00 p.m. MST – Evansville vs. Cal State Northridge (Live Stats)
7:00 p.m. MST – Arizona vs. Utah Valley (Live Stats)
*All matches will be played in the McKale Center