College recruiting is hard work… long hours, lots of travel, and a humbling dose of rejection. It can become a major contributing factor to the burnout that some head coaches experience as their careers stretch out over many years.
But don’t include Dave Rubio in that scenario. The head coach for the University of Arizona women’s volleyball program is going into his 29th season running the Wildcat program, and 33rd in his collegiate coaching career — but shows no signs of slowing down on the recruiting trail.
Case in point: His 2020 recruiting class is ranked No. 7 in the nation. No burnout here.
Nor is he having any trouble continuing to string together successful seasons. His teams have reached the postseason in eight of the last 11 seasons.
It hasn’t been an easy job building the UofA program into a national contender, but that’s just what he’s done. He took over a program that was winless in conference play and developed teams that have made 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, advancing to the Sweet 16 eight times, four trips to the Elite Eight, and a Final Four appearance.
Rubio will go into the 2020 season with a squad that is the top-rated recruiting class in the Pac-12 Conference, the first time that’s happened since 2002. Arizona’s recruiting class is the only one in the country to have four players listed on Prep Volleyball’s Top 100 Senior Aces: Jaelyn Hodge, Lauren Ware, Emery Herman, and China Crouch.
Hodge, who is a local recruit from Basha High School, was named the 2019 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year after leading Basha to the 6A state championship She is ranked No. 20 in the country by Prep Volleyball, which makes her the highest-rated Arizona recruit since Whitney Dosty came into the program 14 years ago with a No. 4 ranking.
Ware and Crouch will give the Cats some enviable height in the middle. Ware, the No. 50 recruit in the nation, is a 6’5″ middle blocker. Crouch, the No. 73 recruit, is 6’6″ and can play both middle and on the pins.
(Coach Barnes has already scooped up Ware, a two-sport athlete, for her UA basketball team.)
The Arizona recruiters also picked up a high school All-American, Emery Herman from Texas, to replace graduated setter, Julia Patterson, who was the team’s starting setter for the last three seasons and one of the top-ranked in the Pac-12.
Rubio even added a little international flavor to the roster, signing Sofia Maldonado from Guadalajara, Mexico. The 17-year-old outside hitter played on the U18 and U20 Mexican National teams and would undoubtedly have been ranked as one of the top recruits in the country if she had been playing in the USA.
The man who has been at the helm of the Wildcat program for almost three decades is 60 years old, but doesn’t look it. Maybe recruiting agrees with him. Or maybe he’s just driven by the success good recruiting brings.
If that’s the case, Arizona should continue to be a national contender for years to come.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)