Cats Clash With Sun Devils

Nov. 10, 2009

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This Week:  The Wildcats return home to McKale Center after a weekend jaunt through Oregon.  In town this Friday is in-state rival Arizona State.  Earlier in the season, the Cats expelled a few demons, err..Sun Devils when they won for the first time in four years playing in the Valley of the Sun.  UA could benefit greatly with a win and some help from others around the conference.  If the Cats are able notch win No. 18, they’d be extremely tough to keep out of the NCAA tournament.  Last weekend while also traveling in Oregon, ASU beat Oregon State but fell to No. 14 Oregon, exactly the opposite result UA experienced.  Additionally, a win on Friday over ASU would give ‘Zona another point in the Territorial Cup Standings. 


Last time out: Getting off to a fast start last Friday, the Wildcats played one of their better matches of the season, defeating No. 14 Oregon, 3-1.  With the win, the Cats clinched the season series over the Ducks.  After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, UO was fortunate enough to stage a late rally in set three before faltering over the fourth set.  Feeling confident with a win in its pocket, Arizona perhaps got caught looking ahead and fell to the Beavers, 3-1.  The loss was humbling due to the fact Oregon State was coming off a loss to ASU and is stuck near the bottom of the conference standings. Not to be content with splitting the weekend in the least bit, but UA will draw upon knocking off a top-15 team on the road to perk its spirits.   


In the rankings: “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in!”  -- Not to draw off the famous Michael Corleone line, but after beating No. 14 Oregon on the road and facing OSU, one couldn’t help to theorize how high the Cats could climb in the national poll.  But after getting tripped up in Corvallis, the rankings conjecture became moot and UA finds itself back at No. 18 for the third straight week and fourth time in 2009.  It is the ninth consecutive poll in which the Wildcats have appeared after starting the season unranked.  The Pac-10 hangs on to eight teams earning a top-25 billing with Wazzu finishing tied with San Diego for 25th.  It’s the fourth occasion eight conference teams have been ranked.  Arizona State is one of two unranked conference teams.  The Cats cannot afford to down-play the Devils though as two of UA’s seven losses have come against unranked conference teams.


Scouting this week’s opposition:

Arizona State – The Sun Devils enter Friday’s tilt against Arizona with a conference record of 3-10, good for tenth in a league of ten.  The Devils are led by Paige Mittelstaedt who has 114 total blocks on the year and Sarah Reaves who accounts for 5.4 points per set.  With an overall record of 13-12, the Sun Devils may be passed by the committee on Selection Sunday.   


Series History and Last Head-to-Head:

No. 18 Arizona at Arizona State – Oct. 16, 2009 in Tempe, Ariz. – Battling the rival Sun Devils with a few not-so-nice streaks alive, UA topped ASU in four sets in a televised match on FSN.  The win put to bed Arizona’s 17 match conference winless streak and also halted the Cats four-year streak of not achieving a win in Tempe.  Whitney Dosty had perhaps her best-ever match with 19 kills on .467 hitting. Courtney Karst also had a big night with 15 kills on .323 hitting. 


Head Coach Dave Rubiois in his 18th season as head coach of Arizona.  In that time span, Rubio has a record of 338-196 Rubio also boasts a career record of 458-257 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 in 2008 over top-11 teams, including No. 11 USC, No. 8 Oregon and No. 6 Cal.


No love: The two in-state rivals must not like to help each other out as both UA and ASU have only defeated the same opponent over the same trip once. Each beat Washington State to close the month of October.   In other occasions, both schools flipped-flopped the L.A. schools’ visit with Arizona defeating USC and UCLA falling to ASU.  UA swept UO and OSU while ASU lost against both while they were in Arizona. And lastly this past weekend with OSU falling to the Sun Devils, then coming back and defeating the Cats who had knocked off Oregon on Friday. 


Double-Mint Gum Obligatory Note Headline:  After reading many weekly volleyball and basketball releases, the Wrigley chewing gum catch phrase can often sound played out and sometimes just corny.  But rest assured, these Wildcats did more than their part on Friday vs. Oregon to earn some sort notation when it comes double-doubles.  Tiffany Owens, Whitney Dosty and Paige Weber all tallied double-doubles against the Ducks.  Owens went for 17 kills and 15 digs, Dosty had 11 kills and 11 digs and Weber posted 50 assists to go with 12 digs. The next evening against OSU, Owens rattled off 17 kills and 17 digs for her fifth consecutive double-double and 13th overall.    


Karst Does Work: It may catch some off guard when hitter Courtney Karst goes for double-digit kills in back-to-back nights, but the sophomore from Colorado has been putting up impressive numbers all season.  Against Arizona State in October, Karst went for, at the time, a career-high 15 kills on .323 hitting.  This past weekend, Karst one-upped that number, totaling 16 kills in Arizona’s 3-1 over No. 14 Oregon.  In total, Karst has notched double-digit kills in eight matches including five conference tilts and is third on the team in kills with 166.       


Block Party: Against No. 14 Oregon, the Cats recorded 11 overall blocks with six different players getting in on the action.  Jacy Norton led all Wildcats with eight, followed by Tiffany Owens with four assists and Whitney Dosty, Paige Weber, Stephanie Snow and Courtney Karst all posting two apiece.   


Territorial Cup: The State Farm Territorial Cup Rivalry Series takes on a new twist in the 2009-10 season.  Instead of just having bragging rights in respective sports, a scoring system has been adopted to see who performs better between hated rivals Arizona and Arizona State.  The standings are currently 2-1 in favor of Arizona State after both of its cross country teams finished ahead of UA in the Pac-10 Championships.  Arizona topped ASU in soccer for its point.  Since the UA volleyball team knocked off ASU last month in Tempe, if the Cats take care of the Sun Devils on Friday, then UA will earn another point and the score will be tied 2-2.  If ASU should win, the series would be a wash, and no points would be awarded.  


Iron Woman: Not only has Paige Weber started all 86 matches in her career at Arizona, but the junior setter has also appeared in all 301 sets over that time span as well.  She is currently sixth in the conference with an assist to set ratio of 10.63.  She has 925 total assists this season and ranks No. 5 on the conference’s active career assist chart.


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 stays at home this next weekend with its final two home matches of the season, against Stanford and California, respectively.  Friday’s match vs. Stanford will start at the usual 7 p.m. time slot.  UA’s match with Cal (Senior Day) however will be played on Sunday at 1 p.m.


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