Morgan Hentz and Dave Rubio's unbeatable collaboration

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Savanna Collins
Nov 03, 2023

After earning a spot as a captain in Week Two, Morgan Hentz was set to do the unheard-of in Athletes Unlimited Volleyball. She built upon her undefeated opening week of play and constructed two more teams of her own that also fostered unconquered success.

Week Tw0: 3-0 record, eight set wins

Week Three: 3-0 record, eight set wins

She remains in the top four heading into Championship weekend, now with a .778 win percentage as a captain. 

“It’s helped me grow as a player and as a person,” Hentz said. “I think these are just life skills that are really going to help me along the way, whether it’s within the world of volleyball or outside the world of volleyball. So I’m super grateful to have this learning experience.”

Alongside her for most of the experience has been facilitator Dave Rubio. At AU, facilitators rotate through each jersey color week-to-week. Rubio began with the purple team (Week One Team Edmond), moving on to blue, orange, gold, and then back to purple.

By a stroke of luck, Hentz and Rubio were together the first three weeks of the season and together created an unstoppable leadership within the league. While Hentz dominated the court as a libero and guided the team with not only her defense but her communication skills, Rubio worked in the background.

He attends other matches throughout the week and provides captains with a detailed scouting report on every player in the league, as well as how they affect their opponent. For Hentz, the trust in Rubio freed her up to just play the match and know that she had him to help her make adjustments as the match wore on.

“I let Dave handle all the subbing in and out and I feel like we were always kind of on the same page about when we needed to time out,” Hentz said. “I think he did a great job of noticing and seeing things that I don’t always notice offensively.”

Rubio was the head coach of the Arizona Wildcats Volleyball program for four decades and retired as head coach in January of 2023. In his 31 seasons, he led the Wildcats to 20 NCAA Tournament appearances.

“I’ve known Morgan and certainly known of her for a long time when playing against her at the University of Arizona,” Rubio said. “I’ve always admired her as a player and it was really an absolute pleasure getting to know her as a person as well. Her playing speaks for itself.”


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Hentz talked about how being in the captain’s role has forced her to see the game differently and think about the other factors happening on the court beyond reacting and playing elite defense. Rubio described it as a coach’s mindset.

“Her attention to detail is something that I really appreciated as a coach … She really approached it with more of a coach’s approach to the attention to detail.”

Rubio taking on some aspects of the week like practice plans, substitutions, and game management freed Hentz up to do what she does best: play defense.

“She’s the best player I’ve ever seen and ever been around in that position,” Rubio said. “It’s just an incredible kind of highlight reel performance that she puts together every night. And it’s contagious. The teams that she plays on, everyone plays probably a better level of defense when she’s on their team.”

He’s not wrong about that. Statistically, Hentz’s teams this season make the fewest errors. Her Week Two and Three teams impacted opponents to average about 16.3 attack errors per matchwhile her side averaged 8.6 a match. Twice her team committed only six hitting errors in a match, the fewest of any AU team ever.

“I felt like he was always giving feedback to our attackers about what was open and how to go around the block or use the block to our advantage,” Hentz said. “He was great also at making in-game adjustments or telling our blockers what to change or defenders where to stand. It was super awesome to be with him.”

Even when being interviewed, Rubio and Hentz echoed one another about their camaraderie. In the draft room, at practice, and in matches they were always on the same page.

“I think the two of us working together has really been – obviously the results speak for themselves – but I think it’s been a really good synergy that we both have together.”

Despite the roster and opponents changing week to week, there are common threads amongst Hentz’s team. For her, serving and passing take priority in the draft room.

“If we can knock other teams out of system that’s going to make our lives on defense easier. And then ball control, how often can we be in system and fighting off tough serves so that we can run as many offensive options as we’d like?” Hentz asked. “I feel like that’s my main focus … Just deciding on the players who are great servers, have great ball control, and also just high volleyball IQs.”

Going undefeated the first nine matches, Hentz logged an 11-match win streak dating back to last season, the longest win streak in AU Volleyball history. It also matches the longest winning streak by any player in any Athletes Unlimited sport.

Rubio was alongside her for three of the weeks but they were finally split up in Week Four.

Hentz was with a new facilitator, Kayla Banworth, and went up against Team Edmond and Dave Rubio on Sunday night. They both were not looking forward to it; Hentz dreaded facing Rubio’s strategy while Rubio was not excited about working with hitters who would have to put a ball down around one of the best liberos in the world.

Team Hentz took a set win, but Team Edmond won the match 70-63.

Hentz will captain a team one last time this season, leading the blue team in Week Five. Rubio won’t be in blue but is paired with Brooke Nuneviller and the purple squad.

She stands in third overall on the leaderboard and is the winningest player so far this season with 1,760 win points.

“It’s not like being a captain of your high school or college team where maybe you’re the on court voice or you’re holding the huddles really tight after each point,” Hentz explained. “There’s more strategy involved than I’ve ever experienced before in terms of making sure we get the matchups that we want on the block, where do we want to start, what’s our best rotation? Those were things I just wasn’t really thinking about.”

She may not have been thinking about it before but now whether it’s overseas or in the Team USA gym, Hentz won’t leave behind the new perspective she’s gained as a captain with Athletes Unlimited.

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