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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

V-ball set to open conference play

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Volleyball vs Louisville
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Volleyball vs Louisville

The Arizona volleyball team (10-2) will be playing a role this weekend that it hasn’t played in a while: the underdog. The Wildcats will host No. 8 University of California (10-0) tonight, followed by No. 1 Stanford University (9-0) on Sunday.

Even though this may be the toughest weekend of the season for UA, head coach Dave Rubio thinks his team is more excited about the opening of Pacific 10 Conference play than anything else.

“”We look at it as the opening of conference play, and as soon as you start in the conference, I think we all know that the level of play is raised significantly,”” Rubio said. “”Regardless of who we’re playing … whether it’s UCLA and USC or the Washington schools I don’t think it would be different. It’s just the fact that conference starts and now we know everything matters.””

Even though they are playing two of the nation’s elite teams, the Wildcats aren’t concerned about what they will see strategy-wise from either school.

“”When it comes to volleyball, 90 percent of it is what you do … the only thing that they’re going to bring is that they’re a lot more physical than what we’ve seen so far,”” Paige Weber said. “”We obviously expect them to execute a high level. It’s going to be different playing against a team that has athletes in every position.””

On top of being the opening of Pac-10 play for the 2010 season, this weekend will also be the first time that the few freshmen in Arizona’s rotation will get a taste of what it’s like to play in one of the country’s top conferences.

“”I’m excited, I know the whole team is also,”” said Candace Nicholson, a freshman from Long Beach, Calif. “”It’s a big weekend and I definitely think we can pull out two wins, so I’m excited to see what happens.””

Something that might help the freshmen get accustomed to Pac-10 play is that the opening weekend is at home, but senior outside hitter Whitney Dosty thinks that there is a different advantage that comes into play.

“”I don’t know if (opening at home) is an advantage or not,”” said Dosty. “”I think it’s good to start off with pretty tough teams and get it going and underway.””

Cursty Jackson had a different take on the advantages of opening up the conference season in the friendly confines of McKale Center.

“”I love being at home; to be honest, I hate traveling”” Jackson said. “”To be at home is a big advantage for us … we’re in the same routine and in front of all of our fans so we’re just used to it.””

Something that will be of help to Arizona this weekend — no matter the outcome — is that the Wildcats are playing against two of the most recognizable volleyball schools in America, and they can only learn from the experience.

Arizona’s match against Cal is at 7 p.m. tonight, and the match against Stanford has been moved to Sunday at 1 p.m. to avoid conflict with UA’s football game Saturday night.

Luafalemana makes her return

After getting her first collegiate experience last weekend at the Arizona Invitational, freshman Tarryn Luafalemana is expected to be a bigger contributor as conference play heats up.

“”She did OK, she got cleared on (September 15th) to be able to play,”” said Dave Rubio after her debut last weekend. “”She’s a better blocker than Maddie (Lozano) — maybe not as good a scorer as Maddie, but it gives us some flexibility. It was good to get her in and get her feet wet — kind of get some the anxiety out.””

Bannister returns to practice

After giving birth only a few weeks ago, Kaylen Bannister was cleared to return to practice last week and actually made an appearance in the Arizona Invitational match against Texas State.

“”I wish she could have played a little more,”” Rubio said. “”She just got cleared and she’s still pretty sore. Since I’ve never been pregnant, it’s hard for me to know exactly what the body goes through. My wife tells me I’m dreaming if I think she’s going to be full speed, but (Bannister) wants to play.””

Bannister didn’t rack up any stats in her one set of action, but it will obviously take time for her to be back in volleyball shape.

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