Missouri vs. Arizona, 11.30

Paige Whipple and the Wildcats ended their last season with a first-round loss to Missouri in the NCAA Tournament. Coach Dave Rubio said, “We’ve definitely gotten better and improved since then.”

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You’d think Dave Rubio had experienced everything after 27 years coaching volleyball at UA.

Yet, there always seems to be something new.

And that’s one of the things that motivates Rubio to keep coming back to the gym every day.

On Tuesday, he embarked on his latest new adventure: a tour through Europe.

It is the first time that Rubio is taking his team on an offseason trip. The Wildcats will play five teams in 10 days.

They start in Prague, then head to Vienna; Maribor, Slovenia; and Venice, Italy. UA will face the Czech Republic junior national team, the Czech Republic world university team, the Slovenia national team, and Italy’s national B and junior national teams.

“It’s a lot of travel and a lot of playing,” said Rubio, who received a contract extension in May through the 2023 season.

Last fall Rubio collected his 500th career win, joining five other Wildcat coaches (Mike Candrea, Fred Enke, Jerry Kindall, Lute Olson and Frank Sancet) to reach that mark.

The Wildcats are coming off a 22-11 season which ended with a first-round loss to Missouri in the NCAA Tournament. UA won its last three matches of the Pac-12 season despite having five players go down with concussions in five straight weeks.

Rubio, who will turn 60 during the trip to Europe, remembers traveling the world in 1984 when he was 25. He said he’s excited to share his “travel bug” with his team.

“I think the girls are all pretty fired up. A high percentage of them have never traveled abroad,” Rubio said. “Actually, this is more of an educational experience — they are getting school credit, and a professor is traveling with us.

“The best education does not come from a classroom; it’s from experiencing different cultures, hearing different languages. This will provide opportunities to grow, opens their eyes and changes their perspective when outside U.S. borders. This is my primary reason for taking them on this trip. I have an older team with more upperclassmen. This is an opportunity to provide something different and unique.”

Rubio had two requests for the third-party tour group that helped organize the trip.

“The most important thing was playing the best competition we can play,” said Rubio. “I heard that Prague was beautiful, but from there it didn’t matter — take us to wherever to get the best competition.”

At the end of their spring season in April, the Wildcats weren’t quite where Rubio thought they should be. They used 10 extra practices to their advantage.

“I was cautiously optimistic at the end of the season in April. We’ve definitely gotten better and improved since then,” Rubio said. “I’ve seen really significant improvement by certain individuals. Repetition and time will determine how one person will improve. How much better can we get? … I am optimistic about this fall. Overall, as a group we needed to take a step up a level at the end of spring. Here we are five weeks later, and we’ve taken that step.”

Rubio is happy that UA administration gave the go-ahead for the trip.

“One other advantage is the incoming freshman can also travel with us,” he said. “That’s a big advantage and benefit. All but one is coming; Simone Overbeck is rehabbing a torn ACL.

“Regardless of what team shows up on the other side of the net, this is good for us. It will be a benefit for our team.”

This article originally ran on tucson.com.

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