NCAA volleyball update, Arizona’s brushes with greatness

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Our feature story today is about all the cool ties that exist outside volleyball for coach Dave Rubio and his Arizona Wildcats.

But first a few quick thoughts about Sunday’s NCAA volleyball. The AVCA poll will come out later today and the guess here is that Penn State will move up to No. 1, Minnesota will be second, and Washington third, although you could certainly make a case for U-W to be 1 or 2.

One team that had to be re-evaluating where it is right now is current No. 1 USC, because not only did the Women of Troy get swept at Washington on Friday, they barely got out of Spokane on Sunday, winning 15-13 in the fifth.

The good news for USC is it plays its next four matches at home against Colorado, Utah, Oregon and Oregon State. The other L.A. team, UCLA, beat Washington State in four on Friday, but then saw their eight-match winning streak broken as they lost in four at Washington on Sunday. The Bruins were without their setter and leading hitter Jordan Anderson went kill-less.

Here’s a brutally honest look at it from, of all places, the UCLA student paper.

UCLA also goes home for four consecutive matches.

Also Sunday, a few others scores of note, starting with the Southeastern Conference: Kentucky held off visiting LSU in four and remains atop the league at 16-7, 9-2. But then there’s a logjam. Texas A&M won at Tennessee and has quietly improved to 15-6, 8-2. Missouri had to go five to escape visiting Auburn to improve to 20-3, 8-2. And Florida is right there at 17-4, 9-3. The guess here is that those are the four SEC teams that will make the NCAA Tournament., although Arkansas has an outside shot. Florida has to be considered one of those teams with a chance to win it all; the others will mess up someone’s bracket.

In the ACC, Florida State (18-5, 11-1) got swept at Pitt on Friday, but bounced back by beating Virginia Tech on Sunday. Pitt (19-5, 9-3) is quietly building a nice resume will be featured here at DestinationVolleyball.com later in the week. Louisville(17-5, 11-1), likewise, lost at North Carolina (13-8, 10-2) but then swept N.C. State.

The ACC remains up for grabs, that’s for sure.

Late Sunday, or at least late for the rest of us, Hawaii made short work of CSU Fullerton to improve to 20-1 and stay unbeaten in the Big West at 10-0. Hawaii should be in the top five in the new poll.

Also, Texas State swept Louisiana-Monroe to improve to 15-11, 10-3 in the Sun Belt, and, more importantly, former Volleyball Baton Rouge (my club) middle Madison Daigle, a freshman, had nine kills in 15 swings with one error to hit .533. The match before, a victory over Troy, Daigle had 12 kills and hit .476. Pretty good couple of matches.

Finally, a big high-five to Beth Launiere, who won her 500th as Utah’s coach when the Utes beat Oregon State on Sunday. Here’s a nice story from the Salt Lake paper.

Arizona: A good team with famous ties

The Wildcats are ranked 19th in last week’s poll and sitting at 15-9 overall, 5-7 in the Pac-12. But this story is about how many interesting relatives the players have and how Dave Rubio, the 24th-year Arizona coach, seems to be right there on the edge of the rich and famous. Start with freshman outside hitter Tyler Spriggs, who is the daughter of former basketball player Larry Spriggs.

Freshman outside hitter Tyler Spriggs (35)
Freshman outside hitter Tyler Spriggs (35)

Larry’s resume includes the 1985 NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers and extensive foreign experience. Arizona’s junior setter Penina Snuka, who leads the Pac-12 in double-doubles (in her case assists and digs) is the niece of “The Rock,” former Miami football player and pro wrestler turned actor Dwayne Johnson.

The photo atop this story is of Penina in action. Snuka is also grand-daughter of the former WWF wrestler and actor Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Sadly, in September he was indicted and arrested on a murder charge from 1983. Freshman middle Jade Turner’s dad, Joe, played basketball at Arizona from 1985-88, which included the Wildcats’ trip to the 1988 Final Four on a team that included Steve Kerr.

Sophomore middle hitter Jade Turner (33)
Sophomore middle hitter Jade Turner (33)

And this is nothing new for Rubio. Former Wildcat Ronni Lewis was a cousin of Kerri Walsh Jennings. Former Arizona setter Tori Moore is married to another former Wildcat, Nick Foles, the St. Louis Rams quarterback.

Heidi Bomburger played at Arizona in the 1990s and she and former Arizona and NFL star Tedy Bruschi have three sons. Former Wildcat Bre Ladd married to former Arizona and NBA standout Luke Walton. And the sister of Chicago Bears player Lance Briggs, Tameka, is a former Arizona volleyball player. The cousin of Lance Briggs, who played for Arizona and the Chicago Bears, was an Arizona volleyball player. Tamika Dennis played in the early 1990s. And finally, Rubio’s first cousin is Nia Peeples, an actress whose resume include Fame, the Young and the Restless and Walker, Texas Ranger.

“None of this stuff you plan on,” Rubio said. “It just kind of happens.”

Arizona head coach Dave Rubio
Arizona head coach Dave Rubio

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