No. 18 Arizona heads to Pacific Northwest

Sept. 30, 2009

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This Week: Arizona volleyball continues conference play as it travels up to the Pacific Northwest to take on Washington State and No. 3 Washington. The Cats will play in Pullman, Wash. on Friday night before traveling to Seattle to face the highly-touted Huskies.                                                           


Last time out: Arizona opened Pacific-10 play with a split against No. 13 USC and No. 16 UCLA.  In conference opener Friday night, the Wildcats defeated the Trojans, three games to one, in front of a season-high crowd of 2,411.  Arizona jumped out to a 2-0 lead then hung on for the 3-1 win.  Tiffany Owens led the Cats with 16 kills and 13 digs while setter Paige Weber also recorded a double with 46 assists and 11 digs. On Saturday vs. UCLA it was quite a different story for the Cats as they were held to a season low .101 hitting percentage and dropped three consecutive sets for the first time all year. 


In the rankings:  Arizona moved up one position in the latest AVCA poll to No. 18 with 552 total votes.  It’s the fourth consecutive poll in which the Wildcats have appeared after starting the season unranked.  The Pac-10 places seven teams within the top-25 for the third straight week.


Scouting this week’s opposition:

Washington State - The Cougars, like the Wildcats, started the season with a blistering 12-0 record before falling on Saturday night. Washington State was downed by No. 7 Oregon in Eugene. On the season the Cougs hit for an average of .279 while Jackie Albright leads the team in kills with 154.  Impressively, the Cougars have five players with over 100 kills on the year so far. Washington State received 16 votes in the latest AVCA polling.


Washington - The Huskies have started the 2009 season in rather dominant fashion as they have not dropped a set, facing three top-10 teams along the way.  Last weekend, the Dawgs squared off against No. 7 Oregon and defeated the Ducks 25-18, 26-24 and 25-19 in front of 3,564 in Eugene.  Washington is led by libero Tamari Miyashiro and hitter Jill Collymore.  On the year the team has hit at a .324 clip.


Series History and Last Head-to-Head:

Arizona vs. Washington State  – Nov. 29, 2008 in Pullman, Wash. – In a match which mostly likely kept the Cats out of the tournament in 2008, the Cougars upset Arizona, 3-2 in five sets.  Since 1978, Arizona holds a 54-13 advantage over Washington State.


Arizona vs. No. 5 Washington — Nov. 28, 2008 in Seattle, Wash. - When the Cats and Dawgs last faced each other, Washington jumped out to a 2-0 led in route to a 3-1 victory in the final conference series of 2008.  Since their first meeting in 1980, the Huskies own a 25-24 lead over the Wildcats.


Head Coach Dave Rubiois in his 18th season as head coach of Arizona.  In that time span, Rubio has a record of 333-190.  Rubio also boasts a career record of 454-255 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.


Tough Roadie:  Coach Dave Rubio often calls the Washington trip his team’s toughest not only because of the quality of play Washington and Washington State are capable of, but also because of the travel demands of getting from Pullman to Seattle in a very short amount of time.


Working the Slide:  Blocker Jacy Norton exploited USC’s defense on Friday night, tallying 11 kills on 20 swings.  The senior had a hitting percentage of .500 while also chipping in with four blocks. On the season, Norton has 13 solo blocks and 37 block assists.  She continues lead the conference in career total blocks with 389.


Floor General:  Junior Paige Weber continues to be the rock in which her teammates count on, time and time again.  Against USC on Friday, the Indianapolis native showed an endless range all over the court, dolling out 46 assists while also recording 11 digs.  It was Weber’s second double-double on the season.


McKale is Filling Up:  With a total of 4,248 fans showing up for this past weekend’s matches against the Trojans and Bruins, the McKale Center is beginning to be a tough place for opponents.  With the new curtain, which was installed before last season, the arena has been transformed into an ideal setting for volleyball.  Add in the noise and atmosphere in which the team feeds off and you can see why the Cats enjoy playing at home.      


No. 9 is the Cat’s Slayer:  When the Wildcats are in need of a kill, more often than not they’ll be looking for their team leader Tiffany Owens.  Owens leads the team with 172 total kills and averages 3.82 kills per set.  Additionally Owens ranks in at No. 6 in conference in the kill category.


Limiting The Errors:  For the fourth time this season, Arizona was “out-killed” by its opponent yet still won vs. USC on Friday.  Generally when the opponent tallies more kills, you will usually be on the losing side of things, but by forcing its opposition into more errors, the Cats have found success.  Against USC, Arizona posted five fewer kills than the Trojans. However USC recorded 25 errors to Arizona’s 18.  And with the score in each set as close as it was, that advantage can determine a win or a loss.


Sophomore Sensation:  After playing sparingly in the early season, including not seeing any playing time against Houston and Eastern Washington, sophomore Courtney Karst has risen to the occasion after teammate Whitney Dosty went down with an injury.  Against USC, Karst played huge, recording 10 kills on 24 swings for an average of .417. 

The Colorado native leads the team with a hitting percentage of .301 and has tallied 62 total kills through 31 sets played.


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.  The team look to get out to a hot start in Pullman before heading to Seattle.  If the Cats are able to remain perfect on the road, it certainly could be called a successful road jaunt.  


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.


Up Next: Arizona returns back home to McKale Center to take on Oregon State and No. 7 Oregon on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Get your tickets by clicking here or calling 621-CATS.


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