It was fair to consider Tuesday night's matchup with Arizona State a midterm exam for the Arizona Wildcats volleyball team.
Sure, the Wildcats are only 12 matches into a 31-match season, but, at 8-3 entering Tuesday's match against the Sun Devils, coach Dave Rubio needed a true test to see where his team was.
He got one, and his squad passed with flying colors.
The Wildcats topped the rival Sun Devils in four sets (25-20, 25-16, 20-25, 25-21) in front of 1,623 fans at McKale Center Tuesday night in the conference openers for both teams.
"Getting a win in this conference is really hard," Rubio said. "You really savor it. I've been in this league 21 years, and I can tell you it's so hard to get a win. You have to work hard and play every single point. I thought we did that tonight."
Madi Kingdon led the way for Arizona with 20 kills and 11 digs. Chanel Brown and Lauren Fuller combined for 50 assists, and libero Candace Nicholson added a team-high 21 digs
The Wildcats entered the match not having dropped a set since Sept. 7 when they lost to TCU 3-1. Total, Rubio's squad had lost just five sets entering Wednesday's match and had won 29.
With no seniors and seven freshmen on his roster, Rubio wanted to put together a nonconference schedule that had a few challenges but also had a lot of winnable matches at home.
"I knew we were going to be really, really young," Rubio said. "I wanted three tournaments at home, and I wanted to be 10-1 or 9-2, and we ended up at 8-3, which is fine.
"This year, I just wanted to be above .500 (at the end of the season). Next year, we will go for a top-16 seed (in the NCAA tournament), and we'll have to go play some teams and beat some teams."
That's next year.
This year, Rubio wanted his young team to learn how to win, and it seems like they are accomplishing that.
There were a couple of disappointing losses in nonconference play including a 3-2 setback to Cal State-Northridge and the loss to TCU. But, Rubio is OK with those - for now.
"The thing that was disappointing but expected was every match we lost, I felt like we were the better team," Rubio said. "We were in position to win every single one of those games. I think the lack of maturity in those matches came out, and we learned from them, evidenced by how we played tonight.
"I knew we were going to experience and suffer some losses we shouldn't, but my hope is that we're going to beat some people going forward that we aren't supposed to."
Arizona can begin testing that theory Saturday.
Washington, ranked No. 5 in the AVCA Top 25 at 10-0, comes to McKale Center to start a stretch in which the Wildcats will see four teams (Washington, Stanford, USC and UCLA) ranked in the top six over their next five matches.
"Going out there and playing some of the best teams in the country night in and night out is really exciting for us," Kingdon said. "It's a great experience for us to grow.
"I thought we played really well tonight against ASU, and I'm excited now to see how we do against the rest of the conference."
Rubio added: "We better strap it up and get ready. It's great we got a win, but we have a lot of work and a lot of season ahead of us."
• Saturday's match against Washington has been moved to a 5 p.m., start. It was originally scheduled for 7 but was moved so it would not interfere with the football team's game at Oregon, which starts at 7:30.
• What: Washington at Arizona
• Where: McKale Center
• When: 5 p.m. Saturday