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UA News

New NCAA rules for volleyball provide challenges, excitement for Wildcats

By Brian Penso

Thursday August 23, 2001 |

Arizona Daily Wildcat

With a new season approaching next week, Arizona's volleyball team will take its first step to improve on last season's Elite Eight finish.

Some things will be different for the Wildcats, though.

First, the team's roster of 18 players includes eight freshmen and one sophomore.

However, that is not going to be the greatest challenge the Wildcats will face this season.

This spring, the NCAA adopted a number of rules that will vastly change collegiate volleyball.

Head coach David Rubio said the most important rule change made was the conversion to the rally-scoring format, which eliminates side outs.

In the past, a team could only score on its serve, but the new rule states that every ball put into play will lead to either team having an opportunity to score.

"This was a very controversial change amongst my peers, but it was much-needed," Rubio said. "It changes the dynamics of the game, and it will make it more exciting for the fans. I think decisions like these should be based on the fans."

Each match will still consist of the best-of-five game format, but the first four games will be played to 30 instead of 15, with the winning team having to defeat its opposition by a minimum of two points.

If the match goes to the fifth and deciding game, it will be played to 15, with the winning team's margin of victory still two points.

Last season, Arizona's greatest strength was its dominant presence at the net, but the new scoring system will give smaller, defensive-minded teams a better chance at competing with the sixth-ranked Wildcats.

Rubio said the rally format places passing and serving at a premium, which concerns him because Arizona hasn't focused on those areas in the past.

"We have always been a dominant force at the net that attacks," Rubio said. "Now we are going to have to focus more on ball control and passing, which has always been our biggest weakness."

This has caused Rubio to change his practices in order to implement the new scoring system.

"It is a new experience for all players and coaches," junior defensive specialist Linda McCullagh said. "This has led to new coaching styles as well. Being that ball control is so important, we have drills where we have to run based on the amount of errors we make. These type of drills make practice more intense, which will help us work even harder for every single point."

Both players and coaches said they will have to be more aware of their mistakes because there is no margin for error under the new scoring system.

"We need to be more consistent, which will lead to better, more effective shots," junior outside hitter Shannon Torregrosa said. "When we play, we just need to stay focused because if we are focused, we won't be thinking about all of the new changes.

Another rule change the NCAA has adopted is in respect to the service game. In the past, a serve hitting the net would result in a side out for the opposing team.

Under the new format, if a ball hits the net, it is still a live ball, which allows for the game to move a lot smoother.

Rubio said that players' reaction times will have to change, as well as their preparation for the alteration of the ball's movement after it contacts the net.

"This will have a small impact on our team, but it makes the game much more exciting for the fans," Rubio said. "Unlike tennis, we will just play on."

Junior middle blocker Stefani Saragosa said this rule will keep players more focused on the match.

"It is a new rule and a new way of playing, and it is hard to change when you have been playing one way your entire life," Saragosa said. "Like the other rule changes, it makes every touch of the ball that much more crucial."

These two new changes have been developed to help the game run more smoothly as well as increase the number of close matches, something the NCAA hopes will lead to more excitement for the fans.

"I am definitely in favor of the new style of play," Saragosa said. "It will be a new style to everyone, but it will make the game more exciting, and I am real excited about that."


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