Trio of Dorados has Cats stacked
Arizona doesn't really have feeder schools from which to consistently draw athletes, but the women's volleyball team has nonetheless tapped a local high school for prospects again.
This year two freshmen, outside hitter Marti Larriva and libero Audrey Bockerstette, formerly of Canyon del Oro High School, have joined another one-time Dorado, senior middle blocker Bre Ladd.
"CDO runs a terrific high school program, and I think that (Dorado varsity's women's volleyball head coach) Melva Lundy does a nice job of training her players," said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio. "We've been able to fortunately recruit from the high schools that are producing the quality players that can play at this level. We invited both of those (girls) to walk on and contribute, and so far they have been doing exactly that."
Larriva had gone to a number of Wildcat matches when she was younger and Bockerstette has been watching the team since she was 5.
"It is really cool," Bockerstette said of being with Arizona. "I love it."
Bockerstette and Larriva are the third and fourth players from CDO to play for Rubio. Ladd said she's glad to be joined by two other Dorado alumnae.
"I think it does great things for the UA, for Tucson, for CDO," she said. "I think they are going to have a lot of fun. It is great being the hometown kids, and I hope that they have a lot of fun."
In high school, Larriva was voted her team's most improved player as a freshman. As a senior, she was voted the team's most outstanding player.
"It's fun, I never really thought I would be playing at the U of A," Larriva said.
The freshmen join Ladd, the 2001 Gatorade National Player of the Year out of CDO, giving the Wildcats a distinctive Dorado flavor.
"First of all, the athletes that he has are exceptional kids that work their tails off," Lundy said. "From day one, they knew that they wanted to play at a four-year university, so they worked really hard in the classroom and in the weight room.
Once Dorados, now Wildcats: former Canyon del Oro standouts at UA
"I encouraged the athletes to be a total package of weight training and academics," she said. "A lot of people don't get the functional training that we focus on at CDO."
Even though they never got to play on the same team at CDO - the Arizona freshmen didn't play on the varsity until their sophomore years - Ladd did know of them.
"I played with Marti's older sister in club (volleyball competition) and I've known both Marti and Audrey since they were freshmen," Ladd said. "I came back (to CDO) and worked camps, so I've definitely known them for quite some time now."
The three also played for the same club team, Club Cactus, which was coached by Arizona assistant coach Steve Walker last year.
Bockerstette and Larriva said that having Ladd on the team definitely makes the transition to college easier.
"It's nice because I was a freshman when she was a senior, and so it is kind of the same situation," Larriva said. "She looks out for all the freshmen."
Bockerstette had extensive volleyball playing experience before she came to CDO, Lundy said. Her junior year, she was voted the 5A Southern Region Player of the Year by the region's coaches. Bockerstette was also voted team MVP as a junior and senior.
"She's been playing since she was in fourth grade," Lundy said. "She brought a lot of skills to the court.
"For somebody who is 5 feet 6 inches (tall), that she was able to take over a team was exciting for her and our team."
Larriva is a little newer to the sport, but Ladd had hardly touched a volleyball until her sophomore year in high school, Lundy said.
"Marti had been playing since junior high," Lundy said. "She just really worked so hard her last two years that she developed into an excellent volleyball player.
"(She embodies) pure hard work and determination. She never gave up, she just kept pushing," Lundy said.
Ladd said she thinks that Larriva and Bockerstette have impressed so far, as have all the team's newcomers.
"Our transfers, our five freshmen, are all doing really well," she said. "I think they are learning a whole lot. I'm not sure if it was what they expected or not, but I think they are doing really great so far."
CDO has provided Arizona with players from various sports, including former gymnastics star Randi Liljenquist (1999-2002). Brian Anderson, a member of the Wildcat baseball team from 2001 to 2003, broke into the majors this month with the Chicago White Sox.
Rubio said he's always excited to get local athletes on the team.
"It certainly draws more (people)," he said. "We've probably had a bit more local flavor to (our team), and I think that is appealing. Any time you can recruit players in the community, it helps us."
- Wildcat staff writer Lindsey Frazier contributed to this story.