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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Cats must make the most of second half of conference schedule

At the beginning of the year, head coach Dave Rubio challenged Arizona volleyball to do something that it failed to do last season: be a consistent team.

“”We would have a great win against one of our conference opponents, a top 10 team, but then the next week we stub our toe,”” said Rubio of the 2008 season ups and downs.

This year, the No. 18 Wildcats have had that same problem against the Pacific 10 Conference.

This trend isn’t much different from other teams in the Pac-10, many of which have struggled on the road. But the difference between the conference elite such as No. 4 Stanford and No. 5 Washington, and the middle-of-the-pack teams — Washington State, Arizona and Oregon — is the amount of success each respective team has had on the road. Stanford and Washington have had at least some success against conference opponents, each winning three games away from their home courts.

That’s not to say that winning on the road in the Pac-10 is easy. It isn’t.

The changes in atmosphere, opponents’ fans and tiredness from traveling all have an effect on how players perform.

But for Arizona, the struggles on the road the past few seasons have been a major reason why it hasn’t been to the tournament since 2005. The loss to the Washington State Cougars in Pullman, Wash., is probably the one identifiable game from the 2008 season that kept the Wildcats out of the tournament.

This year, they have only won one game against a Pac-10 team away from McKale Center, against ASU in Tempe. It was their first conference road win in two years.

Everyone knew the journey through the conference season wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but the Wildcats have an opportunity to turn that around halfway through the Pac-10 schedule.

The Wildcats have played every team once, and now have the chance to do something they’ve sometimes failed to do in matches: close out.

Oftentimes in matches, Arizona gets off to an early jump, but struggles to finish the set strong when it counts the most.

Even when it doesn’t result in a loss, letting a team back into the match through attacking runs or momentum swings can be a deadly line to flirt with in the Pac-10.

The hope for the Wildcats now is that the trend of their play in matches doesn’t apply to the rest of their season. The season began strongly for the Wildcats, as they won 12 in a row to start the year. Their victories and losses since then have come in chunks, two- or three-game spurts that coincide with whether they’re playing home or away.

With the end of the season on the horizon and the opportunity to make it back to the NCAA tournament, Arizona cannot fail to make the most of the second half of its Pac-10 schedule.

The venue for each match is reversed. There will be the opportunity to take advantage of the teams in McKale Center that the team failed to beat on the road. The Wildcats need to play the rest of their conference games at home and on the road like their post-season berth depends on it. That’s because it does.

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