TUCSON, Ariz. – The Arizona volleyball team will begin its preparations for the 2013 season on Saturday, with its first practice of the year.
Head coach Dave Rubio, now in his 22nd year at Arizona, will welcome 19 new and returning student-athletes to the first official practice on Saturday morning. The Wildcats will practice every day until the annual Red-Blue Scrimmage, which will be held August 24 at 2 p.m. inside McKale Center.
The Wildcats return 10 letterwinners, including six starters from a 2012 squad that finished with a 16-15 overall record. In addition, Arizona welcomes eight newcomers to the team, six freshmen and two transfers.
Junior Madi Kingdon leads several experienced Wildcats into 2013. Kingdon earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors last season after recording 443 kills (3.96 p/s), 319 digs (2.85 p/s), 44 blocks and 16 service aces. Earlier this week, she was named to the first ever Pac-12 Preseason All-Conference Team. She ranked in the top-10 of the Pac-12 in both kills and points last season.
The Wildcats also welcome back the only four-year senior on the roster, Candace Nicholson. Nicholson led the team in digs (354) despite missing time due to injury. Junior Taylor Arizobal had a productive sophomore campaign as she ranked second on the squad with 320 kills (2.83 k/s) and 378 points to go along with 170 digs, 45 blocks and 29 service aces. Her 0.26 service aces per set ranked 10th in the Pac-12. She was one of just three members of the team to play in all 113 sets during the season.
The team will also welcome back two more talented juniors in Ronni Lewis and Shaquillah Torres. Lewis played in every set during the 2012 season. She started the season as a defensive specialist but played much of the latter part of the year at libero. Lewis finished the season with 313 digs, 40 assists and 17 service aces. She had 13 matches with double-figure digs including four matches with 20 or more digs. She earned her first start of the season at libero against No. 5 UCLA (11/2) and helped the Wildcats to a sweep of the Bruins with a match-high 20 digs. Torres totaled 156 kills, 50 blocks and 32 digs, while recording four double-figure kill matches on the season. She was named to the all-tournament team at the Arizona Invitational.
Arizona also has a pair of sophomores that are coming off solid campaigns in their first year with the program. Halli Amaro and Olivia Magill were each named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Honorable Mention Team following the 2012 season. Amaro played all 113 sets in 2012. She recorded 254 kills (2.25 k/s) on .291 hitting and finished second on the squad with 100 blocks (0.88 b/s). Magill led the Wildcats with 104 blocks (1.13 b/s) on the season. She recorded 144 kills and hit an efficient .328, which ranked second on the team behind Rhoades' .341 hitting percentage. The .328 hitting efficiency ranked 10th in the Pac-12.
Also returning for the Wildcats are senior Emily Kiser and sophomore Aubrey McKinney, who both earned letters after seeing playing time last year. In addition, Kendall Walwick returns after sitting out last season with an injury.
Among the newcomers are two transfers from other Division I institutions, Jane Croson (Lakewood, Calif./University of Hawaii) and Emily Moss (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Seattle University). Croson was a two-time member of the all-conference team with Hawaii.
Meanwhile, freshmen Jessika Long (Sandy, Utah), Laura Larson (Lakeville, Minn.), Elizabeth Inch (Sherman Oaks, Calif.), Ashley Harris (Petaluma, Calif.), McKenzie Jacobson (Fresno, Calif.) and Penina Snuka (Gilbert, Ariz.) will take part in their first collegiate practice.
The Pac-12 Networks will broadcast 14 Arizona matches in 2013. The Wildcats open the conference slate on the road at Arizona State and California with both airing live on the Networks. The 14 television matches are the most in program history after the Wildcats had 13 on the Pac-12 Networks last season.
Arizona opens the 2013 season at home in the Arizona Invitational, Aug. 30 and 31, inside McKale Center, hosting Morgan State, Central Arkansas and Kansas.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat volleyball, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and be sure to follow the team on Twitter @ArizonaVBall.