Getting back on track

Gordon+Bates%2F+Arizona+Daily+WildcatGordon+Bates%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat

Gordon Bates

Gordon Bates/ Arizona Daily WildcatGordon Bates/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Nicole Dimtsios

After its road trip to the Bay Area ended with two disappointing losses, Arizona volleyball returns home to host the ranked Washington schools this weekend. As the No. 18 Wildcats (15-5, 4-5 Pacific 10 Conference) begin the second half of the conference season with just one home stand left after this weekend, they must look to capitalize on their matches.

After being swept by both Washington State and Washington, the Wildcats are looking to return to the top half of the conference. Currently, Arizona sits at the sixth spot in the conference, behind both of the opponents it faces this weekend.

The Wildcats will look to break their two-game losing slide when they take on the Huskies on Friday, before meeting up with Washington State on Saturday. Both matches begin at 7 p.m.

National implications

All three teams seeing action at McKale Center this weekend are ranked nationally. Washington sits at No. 5 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll this week, the lowest place UW has been ranked all season. Their program, strong for the past five years, last fell out of the Top-10 in December 2003.

After an upset victory over UW last weekend, Washington State returned to the rankings for the second time this season. They currently occupy the No. 21 spot, and the fourth in the Pac-10, two places above the No. 18 Wildcats.

With each weekend shaking up the standings in the conference, the Wildcats could use a sweep at home to vault them into the top half of the Pac-10.

Arizona’s Offense

Arizona’s lineup has changed considerably this season — partially due to injury and partially due to the need for fresh hitters.

“”I think the lineup is evolving. The thing that we’ve seen this year is that we’re fortunate enough that we have some players who can step in and play when other players struggle,”” head coach Dave Rubio said. “”Things change quickly. Patience is important and they know that the team is the most important aspect.””

With the return of junior outside hitter Whitney Dosty and the emergence of sophomore middle blocker Courtney Karst as a threat at the net, Arizona’s offense looked to be flying high. Dosty has led the Wildcats in kills in each of the last four matches. Junior Tiffany Owens sits at seventh place in the Pac-10 with 3.59 kills per set, nine double doubles this season.

But the Wildcats tallied a season-high 10 service errors in the match against Stanford last weekend. This uncharacteristic outing for the Wildcats, known as a dominant serving team in the conference and sitting at fourth place with 1.35 aces/set, was one of the reasons Arizona was unable to pull out the close sets in Palo Alto, Calif.

Push for postseason

Arizona has been absent from the NCAA postseason since 2005. Although they began the season at a perfect 12-0, the Wildcats have since fluttered between mini-streaks.

Now, Arizona will have the opportunity to face their opponents on their home court and take advantage of playing ASU, California and Stanford at home.

Though the road has been historically unkind to Arizona, the Wildcats will need to finish the season strong and persevere through a trip to Los Angeles, Calif., at the end of the season if they hope to make it back to the NCAA tournament.