No. 21 Arizona Ready For Final Tune-up

Sept. 16, 2009

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This Week: Arizona volleyball hosts the Arizona Invitational this weekend in its final weekend of non-conference matches.  The Wildcats welcome Tulane, New Mexico and UTEP to McKale Center.  The team is presently 8-0 and off to its best start since the 1998 season when it won 10 matches to begin the season.                                                                                                    


Last time out: Arizona won the Santa Clara Invitational after posting wins over Santa Clara on Thursday night and Utah on Friday.  The tournament victory was Arizona’s third on the season.  The Cats were mostly dominant during their trip to Nor Cal as they swept the Broncos and Utes in three sets apiece.


In the rankings:  The Wildcats moved up four places to No. 21 in the latest AVCA poll. It’s the second consecutive week in which Arizona has been ranked. Last week the Cats charted in at No. 25.  For their current ranking, Arizona received 260 total votes.


Scouting this week’s opposition:

Tulane - The Green Wave are currently 3-3 on the season after falling to Long Beach State in the Sugar Bowl Finale Saturday.  The home loss was Tulane’s first home loss in five seasons.  First year head coach Sinisa Momic has a roster made up of many Serbian athletes. Last year the Green Wave won the Conference USA regular season and tournament championships. Tulane will actually play UTEP on Thursday before heading to Tucson.


New Mexico - New Mexico currently has a record of 7-1 and will play Wednesday evening against TCU before making the trip to Tucson for the Arizona Invitational.  Lobo Jade Michaelson will have a homecoming of sorts as the recent MVP of the Comcast Lobo Challenge grew up in Tucson and prepped at Salpointe Catholic. Michaelson was named MWC Co-Preseason Player of the Year.


UTEP – The Miners currently have a record of 7-3 and will face the Green Wave on Thursday at home.  UTEP heads into this week’s action after claiming the season’s second tournament championship last weekend at the Bradley CEFCU Invitational in Peoria, Ill. The Miners recorded wins over Bradley, 3-0, and Coppin State, 3-0, and dropped a five-set match to Montana State. Senior middle blocker Aidan Mooney was named the tournament’s MVP and setter Patty Jarmoc was selected for the all-tournament team, her second this season.


Series History and Last Head-to-Head:

Arizona vs. Tulane – Believe it or not, but Saturday’s meeting between both schools with a deep volleyball history will actually be their first ever time facing each other. Tulane has fielded a team every year since 1975 while Arizona’s first team competed in 1977.


Arizona vs. New Mexico – Sept. 6, 2002 in Louisville, Ky. – Opening its season in Louisville, Arizona knocked off New Mexico in the third match of the tournament, 3-0.  Set scores were 30-23, 30-14 and 30-22.  In series history, Arizona holds an 8-5 advantage over New Mexico in 13 all-time meetings.


Arizona vs. UTEP -- Sept. 1, 1999 in El Paso, Texas - You have to go back 10 years to find the last time these Southwest schools last faced each other.  In the season opener in ‘99, Arizona topped UTEP, 3-0. That season Dave Rubio led the Cats to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to No. 2 Stanford.  Arizona has faced UTEP seven times in its history, winning all seven matches.


Head Coach Dave Rubiois in his 18th season as head coach of Arizona.  In that time span, Rubio has a record of 329-189.  Rubio also boasts a career record of 451-255 in 23+ career years.  In the last ten seasons, Rubio has guided the Wildcats to five Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights and to Arizona’s first-ever Final Four. His teams have won over 200 matches during this ten-year stretch, including 16 in the NCAA Tournament, which is six more than the previous 14 postseason teams combined.  Rubio and the Wildcats finished above .500 in 2008 with the Wildcats posting a 16-14 record, just missing the NCAA tournament. Arizona pulled off three upset wins over top-11 teams, including No. 11 USC, No. 8 Oregon and No. 6 Cal.


No. 450 -- With Arizona’s win over Santa Clara on Thursday, head coach Dave Rubio earned win number 450 of his prestigious career.  The Northridge, Calif. head man began his career at Cal State Bakersfield before taking over the reins in Tucson in 1992.  Additionally, Rubio’s 329 career wins at Arizona is the most in school history.


Great Start: In 1998, Arizona got off to its best start ever with 10 straight victories.  Currently sitting at 8-0, one could look to this weekend to possibly tie or break that 11-year record posted by Coach Rubio’s bunch.


Block Party: Senior Jacy Norton continues to be an irreplaceable middle blocker for the Wildcats. Norton leads Arizona with 32 total blocks and has a block-to-set ratio of 1.33.  Norton, who is the active leader in blocks among the Pac-10 Conference, also totaled 14 kills for the Cats in Santa Clara.


Good Ratio: Through 26 sets, Arizona has posted an impressive record of 24-2.  The Cats have only dropped one set against each Pittsburgh and Eastern Washington through their perfect 8-0 record.  Moreover, Arizona has not been forced to play five sets in any of its eight matches to date.


Possible Road Success? After Arizona’s 3-0 win over Santa Clara on Thursday, the Cats equaled their total number of road wins from all of last season with two.  With the next five matches all at McKale Center, the team will have to wait a little while to pick up its next road win, but the odds are in the Cats favor of bettering its road win total from 2008.  


Dynamic Duo: Tiffany Owens and Dana Hutchinson have been quite the one-two punch for Arizona early on.  The pair are first and second respectively in kills, attempts and digs.  Hutchinson also leads the team in service aces with nine while Owens is second in solo blocks with six. Lastly Hutchinson and Owens make up 6.50 kills per set for the Wildcats.


SCU Invitational Honors: After winning the Santa Clara Invite this past weekend over Santa Clara and Utah, Tiffany Owens was named MVP of the tournament.  Owens was also part of the All Tournament team along with senior Jacy Norton and sophomore Courtney Karst.  Karst who filled in for Whitney Dosty this past weekend played big with 18 total kills.


Wildcat Classic Honors:  Junior setter Paige Weber nabbed MVP honors for Wildcat Classic by Marriott Tucson University Park on Sept. 5.  Weber totaled 97 assists through three matches as Arizona went 3-0.  Whitney Dosty and Jacy Norton were All-Tournament selections for the stellar play as well.  In Louisville, it was Tiffany Owens garnering MVP and Dana Hutchinson and Weber receiving All-Tournament status.


Lone Newcomer: Freshman Ellen Querrey is Arizona’s only newcomer for 2009.  A native of Thousand Oaks, Calif., Querrey played for the Sportsshack club team and Thousand Oaks High School.  The outside hitter will look to learn for veterans Whitney Dosty and Tiffany Owens.


Pac-10 Preseason Poll: Arizona was selected to finish seventh in the Pac-10 Conference in a preseason vote by the conference’s head coaches.  The Wildcats garnered 42 points in the vote, as defending champion Stanford was third with Washington being the preseason favorite.  The Huskies claimed 90 points, 10 more than second-place Cal, including nine of the 10 first-place votes.  Cal was the only other team to receive a first-place vote. UCLA fell into fourth with 62 points and USC was picked fifth with 60 points.  Oregon came in sixth with 48 points.  Rounding out the poll were Arizona State, Oregon State, and Washington State, respectively.


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