Aug. 8, 2012
TUCSON, Ariz. - The Arizona volleyball team began its preparations for the 2012 season on Wednesday, with its first practices of the year at Richard Jefferson Gymnasium. The returners and upperclassmen took part in a morning and afternoon session, while the freshman just participated in the afternoon practice.
Head coach Dave Rubio is entering his 21st season at the helm of the program and led the team to a 19-13 overall record in 2011, including a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season. The Wildcats made their 24th trip to the "big dance" in just 31 total years of volleyball at the U of A.
"We have a long way to go, but I like what I saw," Rubio said. "The new players are talented, but it's going to take us time to get them on the same page with the returners. I know we have some good talent so we'll just have to be patient and see how each practice goes. Hopefully a week from now we are significantly ahead of where we are now."
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) are each juniors and are eligible to play this season. 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.) took part in their first collegiate practice.
The Wildcats will conduct two-a-days through August 18 as the team will close out the multiple sessions with the annual Red-Blue scrimmage at 2 p.m. Arizona's 32nd season of volleyball will get underway at home with the Wildcat Classic on Aug. 24-25. Arizona will open the tournament against Evansville and Cal State Northridge on Aug. 24 before closing out the event against Utah Valley on Aug. 25.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat volleyball, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and be sure to follow the team on Twitter @ArizonaVBall.