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Arizona volleyball team faces ‘faster, bigger, stronger’ Golden Bears

Colin+Prenger+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AUA+Womens+Volleyball+played+against+Washington+State+Sunday%2C+Sept.+25%2C+at+the+McKale+Center.+The+UA+volleyball+team+beat+WSU+in+the+second+set.+The+photos+were+taken+on+Sept.+25.
Colin Penger
Colin Prenger / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Women’s Volleyball played against Washington State Sunday, Sept. 25, at the McKale Center. The UA volleyball team beat WSU in the second set. The photos were taken on Sept. 25.

The Arizona volleyball team is heading into the upper tier of the Pac-12 this weekend.

Tomorrow night the Wildcats will take on the No. 4 California Golden Bears that were No. 1 in the country until they suffered their first two losses of the season to USC and UCLA last week.

“This game is a lot faster, bigger, stronger and will have higher jumping and higher hitting,” UA head coach Dave Rubio said. “It’s just a whole different type of game from the physical standpoint. We haven’t really seen that except a little in Hawaii. God, they’ll be by far the most physical team we’ve played since we’ve started.”

The Golden Bears are a tall team, as their two shortest players, both defensive specialists, are listed at 5-foot-9. Cal has 11 players who are at least 6-foot-1, the tallest of whom is 6-foot-4.

“What comes with teams that are that physical also comes with inherent issues with ball control and passing,” Rubio said. “Cal, I don’t think is a great passing team, but they’re super physical.”

The Wildcats will have their work cut out for them, but senior middle blocker Cursty Jackson knows that even though it’s a team sport, she has a role in shutting down her position on the other side of the net.

“I’ll be at the net, just stressed out. If I don’t get the block or they get a kill, it’s my fault,” Jackson said earlier in the season. “I don’t want the middle hitting above a .100. If they hit a .400 or .500, I’m not doing my job.”

Here are three key match-ups for tomorrow night:

Chloe Mathis v. Elly Barrett

Elly Barrett is the 5-foot-11 junior setter for the Golden Bears. Even though she has seniority over freshman Chloe Mathis, she hasn’t been consistently playing for Cal because she was behind All-American setter, Carli Lloyd. For the 2010 season, Barrett totaled 46 assists and 29 digs in a total of 13 matches. This is her first year starting for the team.

As a freshman, 5-foot-11 Mathis has recently been starting over junior setter Tori Moore in a 5-1 offense. She has already played in 12 matches and leads the team in assists with 246 total. Mathis has also made 46 digs in her 12 appearances as a Wildcat. Rubio said the setter has been working to get the ball out of her hands faster, so the team’s offense as a whole will be faster.

Cursty Jackson v. Kat Brown

Standing at 6-foot-3, junior middle blocker Kat Brown has one inch on the 6-foot-2 Jackson. Brown was a starter all throughout her sophomore year, playing in 112 of Cal’s 118 sets, and she tripled her season kills from her freshman year, tallying 223. Her average hitting percentage is .358.

Jackson’s junior season was her first season as a Wildcat after transferring from UNLV. Nevertheless she started throughout her junior year averaging 2.43 kills per set, with a total of 289 kills for the season. Jackson had double-digit kills in 14 matches and had the team-high for blocks with 133 total. As a senior, she is again starting in every match and has already acquired a .363 hitting average for the 2011 season.

Candace Nicholson v. Robin Rostratter

Robin Rostratter is the junior defensive specialist for the Golden Bears. At 5-foot-11, Rostratter is one of the taller liberos in the conference. Last season she was fifth in the Pac-10 with 4.19 digs per set, playing in all 118 sets for the Bears. She also led the team in service aces.

As a freshman, the 5-foot-8 Nicholson recorded a team-high 71 assists and 353 digs. Now, well into her sophomore season, she has played in 12 matches and has contributed 123 digs for the Wildcats. She recently made a team-high for digs in a match, with 17 against No. 3 Washington.

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