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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcat Volleyball returns to NCAAs

The Arizona volleyball team has clinched a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005 after completing its Pacific 10 Conference season this weekend.

The No. 19 Wildcats (19-10, 8-10 Pac-10) will face off against Texas A&M on Friday in Baton Rouge, La. Tulane and Louisiana State University, the host school, fill out the bracket in the first round of tournament action.

“”I’ve always said there’s three different seasons throughout the year,”” head coach Dave Rubio said. “”There’s the non-conference season, the conference season and the postseason. Everything you do throughout the year is in preparation for what you’re going to face in the postseason.””

Rubio and the Wildcats have traditionally fared well in the tournament, posting a 22-12 record in twelve previous trips.

Arizona is one of eight Pac-10 teams that were selected to participate in postseason action. Along with UCLA, Washington, California, USC, Oregon, Washington State and conference winner Stanford, Arizona will look to represent the rich volleyball Pac-10 with success.

The Wildcats began the year coming off a difficult snub at the end of the end of the 2008 season, when they did not receive an invitation from the selections committee. Arizona then proceeded to go 12-0 in non-conference games, vaulting the team into the national rankings.

“”I’m certainly excited and proud of the team. It’s been a lot of hard work to get back there, especially in our conference,”” said Rubio. “”There have been quite a lot of sacrifices on everyone’s part to get us back to where we were, and we’re excited to move on to the tournament.””

As the non-conference opponents faded away, Arizona was faced with the high level of competition in the Pac-10. Although getting swept in Los Angeles this weekend did not provide Arizona with the end it had hoped for, the Wildcats still walked away with a ticket to the tournament.

Rubio and the Wildcats will face the Aggies at 5 p.m. CT on Dec. 4. Should they advance past Texas A&M, Arizona will play on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. CT.

“”It’s the teams that can play to their potential and can play to their level during the tournament that are the teams that are going to go from round to round,”” Rubio said. “”We’re just going to do our thing.””

‘Cats swept in Los Angeles

Although Sunday’s selection to the NCAA Tournament was a day of celebration for the Wildcats, the weekend didn’t start on such a good note.

Arizona fell at the hands of both No. 9 UCLA and No. 16 USC over the weekend in two matches that set the Wildcats at seventh place in the conference with a sub-par 8-10 record.

But for head coach Dave Rubio, the losses at the end of the seasons don’t necessarily inspire panic.

“”I think we’re playing some of our best volleyball right now,”” Rubio said. “”It’s a product of a process we’ve been going through the last several months.””

On Friday, Arizona must have had a turkey hangover. It dropped the match against the Bruins (23-8 13-5, Pac-10) 3-0 and never registered more than 17 points in a set during the match. The Wildcats’ attack struggled, and they were not able to get many hitters going early on. Although Tiffany Owens recorded another double-double on the season with 16 digs and 16 kills, three other hitters had negative attacking percentages.

The Bruins jumped out to early leads in each of the sets before going on large runs in their favor to run up the scoreboard.

“”The UCLA game, we just didn’t play well at all. We played terrible,”” Rubio said. “”UCLA played very well and they completely took us out of our game.””

Although the next night’s match would end with the same result — a loss — Arizona’s style and fight was undeniably back.

The Wildcats played four sets in the match against USC (21-9, 10-8), but this time exhibited some of the best volleyball of the season.

“”The following day we had a terrific match against USC and that could have gone either way, but it was one of the best matches we played all year,”” Rubio said. “”I felt like we were really engaged and invested in that match. Even though we ended on a loss, I thought it was great for us to compete at that level and that hard.””

The Wildcats played four highly contested sets before falling 3-1 in the match. Both Owens and fellow junior outside hitter Whitney Dosty had more than 20 kills and each recorded double-doubles.

Arizona took the first set before falling in game two 25-23. Game three not only went to extra points but went especially high under the new scoring rules. The Wildcats dropped the set 36-34, but the competitive nature of the game kept them in the match mentally.

“”It’s rare,”” said Rubio of the high scoring in the third set. “”It may be the highest point-scoring total for me, but it went back and forth.”” 

That set described the match in a nutshell. Although they rallied and tied the score at various times during the game, the Wildcats were just never able to close out the set and get the upper hand.

“”It was just one of those really terrific volleyball games that, unfortunately, someone had to lose,”” said Rubio.

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