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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Volleyball gets tuneup

    Arizona middle blocker Stephanie Snow (55) and setter Paige Weber (34) work together to block Jacy Nortons attempt to score. With many players lost to injuries, the three underclassmen and the rest of the volleyball team will make do with what they have today and tomorrow at the Sheraton Four Points Wildcat Classic in McKale Center.
    Arizona middle blocker Stephanie Snow (55) and setter Paige Weber (34) work together to block Jacy Norton’s attempt to score. With many players lost to injuries, the three underclassmen and the rest of the volleyball team will make do with what they have today and tomorrow at the Sheraton Four Points Wildcat Classic in McKale Center.

    On Friday, a headline for the volleyball story (“”Volleyball gets tuneup””) read “”Frosh could take over at libero.”” The correct position is setter. The Wildcat regrets the error.

    Just because a car breaks down doesn’t mean it’ll never drive again. With a couple of tuneups, maybe some new parts and some pride, it can return to the fast lane.

    The Arizona volleyball team had a major breakdown last season, finishing 13-17 (4-14 Pacific 10 Conference) and failing to reach the postseason for the first time in 11 years. The Wildcats have had some summer tuneups and added some new players, and look to get back in their usual groove this weekend in the Four Points Sheraton Wildcat Classic.

    Arizona, ranked sixth in its conference in a preseason coaches poll, will play Utah State and Eastern Washington today at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, in McKale Center. The Wildcats meet St. Mary’s tomorrow night at 7.

    Arizona is undefeated (4-0, 2-0, respectively) against the latter two teams.

    “”We’re very excited about the upcoming season, and we’re looking to improve from last year,”” said UA head coach Dave Rubio. “”We have a terrific group of young ladies. We’re much improved in a lot of areas, and we feel that we have a team that will compete at the very highest level.””

    Rubio has said repeatedly there are a lot more “”knowns”” this year, citing the experience that the six returners bring to the team. What isn’t known, however, is how the five freshmen will adapt and how the team deals with several summer injuries and surgeries.

    Sophomore outside hitter Whitney Dosty, a Pac-10 All-Freshman Team selection last season, will not play this weekend, Rubio said. After tearing the medial collateral ligament in her right knee last month while practicing with the USA Junior National Team in Thailand, Dosty was worked back into practice early last week with a knee brace.

    But because she was favoring her right knee, she developed a minor case of tendinitis in her left knee, Rubio said.

    “”Today was kind of the drop-dead day,”” Rubio said Wednesday. “”I’m going to shut her down until Monday, so she won’t play at all. We’ve got to get that knee calmed down.””

    Rubio said Dosty’s current health is frustrating because she plays a significant team role. But because she has limited participation in practice, he added, the Wildcats have learned to work around her absence while preparing for the season.

    “”We’ve evolved without her,”” Rubio said. “”Which is a good thing for this tournament. It’s a lot harder when you lose someone that makes up a big part of your practice regimen.””

    Projected lineup

    With Dosty out for the weekend and Brooke Buringrud still coming back from an offseason shoulder surgery, freshman Tiffany Owens and sophomore Alanna Resch are projected to start in the outside hitter positions. Rubio said that Buringrud is “”60, 70 percent, at most”” but will still be available to come off the bench.

    Healed from a swollen knee, senior Dominique Lamb, a 2006 All-Pac-10 honorable mention, will likely start at the middle blocker position alongside sophomore Jacy Norton.

    Junior opposite hitter Randy Goodenough, who was fourth on the team last season with 185 kills and a 2.13 kills-per-game average, looks to start after having minor elbow surgery in the offseason.

    “”I feel good, ready to go,”” Goodenough said after practice Wednesday. “”I feel stronger than I did before having surgery.””

    Katie Jackels is the probable starter at libero. She was fourth on the team with 2.36 digs per game and tallied double-figure digs 11 times last season.

    With Stephanie Butkus, second all-time in Wildcat history with 4,035 assists, graduated, choosing a starting setter will be a “”game-time decision,”” Rubio said.

    Although Arizona returns Amy Dyck for her senior season, freshman Paige Weber, whom Rubio has called “”one of the best setters we have ever brought in,”” will give Dyck a run for her money.

    Baum’s away

    The biggest loss that the team will have to overcome is Kristina Baum.

    The middle blocker was granted another season of eligibility for this season after suffering a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear last season as a senior. Instead, she decided not to play and will work on finishing her English degree, Rubio said.

    “”We were disappointed when Kristina chose not to come back,”” he said. “”But we respected that decision, and the team needed to move on and develop without her, as good a player and as good a leader as Kristina was for us.””

    Time heals all injuries

    Despite starting the season with Baum gone, Dosty on the bench and two players recovering from offseason surgeries, the Wildcats said they feel stronger coming into this season than they did last season.

    “”I feel like we’ve definitely hit some bumps in the road when it comes in to injuries,”” Goodenough said, “”but we also are coming back from that stronger.””

    Rubio said he thinks that attitude, coupled with a gradual rehabilitation process and the addition of well-adjusted freshmen, should make for a balanced start to the season.

    “”I’m very optimistic,”” Rubio said. “”I feel like by the end of the season we’re going to be a top-10-level team. We have exceptional athletes – as good as anybody in the country. Our conference is a very unforgiving conference, so you have to be good right off the bat.””

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