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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bittersweet finish for volleyball

    Arizona middle blocker Jacy Norton (12) gets excited as she is introduced to the crowd in McKale Center before the Wildcats game against No. 4 Washington on Oct. 5. The Wildcats finished the season in eighth place in the Pacific 10 Conference.
    Arizona middle blocker Jacy Norton (12) gets excited as she is introduced to the crowd in McKale Center before the Wildcats’ game against No. 4 Washington on Oct. 5. The Wildcats finished the season in eighth place in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    Last year wasn’t supposed to happen again.

    After not making it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 seasons, the Arizona volleyball team followed suit in its 2007 campaign, finishing 14-17 and 4-14 in the Pacific 10 Conference, with only one more win than a year ago.

    The Wildcats finished eighth in the Pac-10, better than Oregon State and Washington State.

    “”I think we’re all disappointed with how the season turned out, and not for personal reasons, but collectively and for our seniors,”” said middle blocker Jacy Norton, who registered a career-high 15 kills in Arizona’s season-ending win over No. 10 UCLA. “”All year we knew we had a special group. We just couldn’t put it together.””

    The Wildcats were faced with a task of winning three of their final six games to reach the postseason – a task that proved to be easier said than done. Five of their final six opponents were ranked, four of them in the national top 10.

    “”I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Pac-10 is not an easy conference to play in,”” said UA head coach Dave Rubio, who won his 300th match at Arizona this season and now sits at 305. “”Every team in this conference is good, top to bottom.””

    Injuries plagued the Wildcats prior to the season.

    Middle blocker Kristina Baum did not return to the team after redshirting her senior year last season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus muscle.

    Then sophomore Whitney Dosty had to use a medical redshirt because of knee problems. The outside hitter who averaged 3.39 kills per game as a freshman and posted a career-high 29 kills against No. 24 Oregon – a Pac-10 season-high among all conference players – tore her right medial collateral ligament in July while practicing with the USA Junior National Volleyball Team in Thailand.

    While favoring the right knee, she developed tendonitis in her left knee and eventually needed surgery.

    Rubio believed keeping Dosty out this season would ultimately be better for the team in the future.

    “”More so than anything, for her to reach her potential as a student-athlete at Arizona, she needs many opportunities to touch the ball,”” Rubio said after he announced her redshirt in mid-October. “”Having another year to do that can pay dividends.””

    There were some bright spots during the season.

    Freshman Paige Weber showed she was immediately ready for the college level, accumulating 1,330 assists. She’s on pace to challenge Dana Burkholder (1998-2001), who holds the career record for assists with 5,424.

    Freshman Tiffany Owens stepped up as the team’s main outside hitter with junior Brooke Buringrud returning from offseason shoulder surgery. Owens was second on the team with 3.44 kills per game on .202 hitting.

    “”I’ve learned so much this season,”” Owens said. “”I’ve learned that I have to play for my teammates around me.””

    The seniors shined as well, as libero Katie Jackels broke a 24-year-old school record for digs in a single game, posting 37 against St. Mary’s on Aug. 25.

    Senior Dominique Lamb ended her career as one of the program’s most successful players. She finished with 527 total blocks – five short of the all-time record – and 464 block assists, the most all-time at Arizona.

    “”I finally made it,”” Lamb said after breaking the block assists record in a three-game loss to No. 4 Washington on Nov. 1. “”It’s pretty cool. It means I’m getting my job done.””

    Though the Wildcats will be without its four seniors next season, the return of Dosty and new confidence will propel the team.

    “”Next year, the Pac-10 better watch out, because we’re coming with a vengeance,”” Norton said. “”We have some good recruits coming in. I think everybody knows we can do it now. It’s just a matter of time.””

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