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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Volleyball getting aggressive

    During Arizona volleyball practice in Bear Down Gym Tuesday, team manager Shalane Brucker looked up from the sidelines.

    “”Welcome to our second home,”” she said.

    Every year, once men’s and women’s basketball practice starts, the volleyball team is pushed to Bear Down for practice sessions. While it is hotter (no air conditioning) and louder (echoes galore) than McKale Center, where the team has practiced since the season began, the Wildcats feel optimistic about the change.

    “”It’s kind of like, ‘Oh, it’s that time during the season already,’ “” said opposite hitter Randy Goodenough. “”The second half of the conference is always so different than the first. It’s kind of a reminder of how fast the season moves along.””

    Though it’s not quite the second half of the conference season yet, Arizona (12-7, 2-5 Pacific 10 Conference) has second-half caliber competition tonight at 7 in McKale Center when it takes on No. 3 Stanford (17-1, 6-1).

    To prep for the match, the Wildcats are beefing up their aggression.

    During a scrimmage in Tuesday’s practice, UA head coach Dave Rubio walked onto the floor in between plays to compliment outside hitter Tiffany Owens on her aggressive play. Then he told the rest of the team to follow the freshman’s lead.

    “”To beat the upper end of the conference, you have to push back,”” he told his players, his voice echoing loudly in the gym. “”You’re not going to win if you’re not aggressive. You’ll get close, but you’re not going to win.””

    His words come in the wake of the Wildcats being swept by ASU last week in Tempe – Arizona’s second straight sweep and third loss in four matches. The advice also comes as the team tries to scrape up a win to match last season’s total.

    “”If anything, it motivates us to compete harder to come out with a win this week,”” said Brittany Leonard, a defensive specialist.

    Rubio said the loss to ASU marked the team’s best-played match to date. To beat the top teams in the conference, Arizona needs to stay an attacking force, but also a smart one, he said.

    “”There’s a fine line (between aggression and confidence) because sometimes you’re aggressive and you’re not smart and intelligent,”” he said. “”You’ve got to be intelligent and aggressive as a player.””

    Stanford comes into Tucson with history on its side. In 55 matches between the squads, the Wildcats have been the victors only seven times. The Cardinal ranked No. 3 nationally both times it played Arizona last season and won both matches.

    Stanford has reached the NCAA Tournament in 21 consecutive years. It has made the championship game 12 times, winning on six occasions.

    “”Our conference is really intense,”” Leonard said. “”We never have a day off. … It’s motivating to beat a great team. It would put us in a position to get everything in place from here on out and have a chance at the (NCAA) Tournament.””

    The Wildcats are hitting .221 behind Goodenough, who puts up 4.09 kills per game. On the other side of the net, the Cardinal hits .309, led by outside hitters Alix Klineman (4.28 kpg) and Cynthia Barboza (4.26).

    To work around such dominating players, the Wildcats know they must push harder than they’ve pushed all season.

    “”We’re working on aggression because we know that’s how we need to be this week,”” Goodenough said. “”We know that on any given night the match is up for grabs. Being aggressive will help us have a chance.””

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