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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Volleyball locks eyes on Tourney

    The gate to the postseason is not locked yet.

    Winning three of its final six regular-season matches would give the Arizona volleyball team a key to the NCAA Tournament.

    The Wildcats (13-12, 3-10 Pacific 10 Conference) square up against ASU (14-12, 6-7) tonight at 7 in McKale Center, after

    Arizona beat Washington State on Friday to snap a seven-game losing skid.

    “”Right now, we’re kind of looking at our season as a brand-new start,”” said outside hitter Brooke Buringrud. “”We’re 1-0.””

    The Sun Devils dropped the Wildcats in three close games when the teams last met in

    Tempe on Oct. 12. ASU

    outside hitter Sarah Reaves led the charge with a match-high 20 kills on .459 hitting.

    On the other side, three Arizona players posted double-digits in kills.

    A win for ASU would complete its first back-to-back season sweep of Arizona since the 1994-1995 season.

    But for the Wildcats, tonight’s game is about more than beating their in-state rival. It’s about clawing their way to a postseason berth after failing to do so last year for the first time in 11 seasons.

    “”At this point in the season, teams that know they’re heading to the playoffs are kind of building up to a crescendo for the end of the season,”” said UA head coach Dave Rubio. “”Teams that aren’t going to the NCAA Tournament are teams that are just trying to get through practice.

    “”Our team right now is somewhere in the middle. Our players know that this game against ASU is critical for our postseason hopes. We control our own destiny.””

    Though the Wildcats have the home-court advantage, both teams are evenly matched statistically.

    The Wildcats and the Sun Devils are both hitting .219 this season. ASU is 4-4 on the road, while Arizona is 7-6 at home. The all-time series is tied 36-36.

    “”For us, it’s all about first contact,”” Rubio said. “”You have to serve tough and you have to pass well. But you also have to put yourself in a position to score points. Last time we played ASU, they were by far more aggressive than we were. We just kind of sat back and got punched around.””

    The Wildcats are in a much better mental state than a week ago thanks to Friday’s win, though they didn’t play particularly better than they were during the seven-game slide, Rubio said.

    “”Last time, we were too passive against ASU, and we can’t do that again,”” he said. “”(Tonight) will be interesting to see where we are with that right now.””

    Opposite hitter Randy Goodenough and outside hitter Tiffany Owens lead the attack for the Wildcats. They boast averages of 3.92 and 3.17 kills per game, respectively.

    Dominique Lamb continues to prowl along the net. The senior averages 1.51 blocks per game and needs only six blocks to move into second place on the Wildcats’ all-time list.

    “”You have to have some players put the team on their shoulders and say, ‘I want to get things done,’ “” Rubio said.

    The Wildcats are confident in their bid for a playoff berth.

    “”We’re going into every game from here on out that with the mindset that we have to win,”” Buringrud said. “”There’s no choice but to win. It’s do or die.””

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