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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No pressure for UA Volleyball

No pressure for UA Volleyball

It’s better to be pleasantly surprised than it is to be sorely disappointed.

At the end of last year, the Arizona volleyball team would have given anything to be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats were just plain defeated. There was nothing they could do but sit at home and watch, as they had done since the 2005 postseason.

But this season is a different story for Arizona. It has finally made it back to the NCAA Tournament after a four-season drought.

But no pressure.

The program has accomplished what it set out to do at the beginning of the season, but not necessarily what anyone else expected.

After being tabbed to finish in seventh place in the beginning of the year, the Wildcats actually finished one spot higher at sixth. Their pre-conference winning streak and fair showing during the Pacific 10 Conference season eliminated the Wildcats as a shocker selection at the end of the season.

With great power comes great expectations, but the Wildcats’ program remains relatively unknown around the country. Arizona is not known as a power volleyball school, and therefore should have no anxiety about how far it will go in the tournament.

For a program that has faded after the end of the regular season, this is exactly what the doctor ordered for Arizona.

“”Setting any expectations, you could set yourself up for a disappointment or you could set your expectations low and then find yourself out quickly because you became satisfied with what you had done,”” junior setter Paige Weber said.

When compared to the recent success of other schools like No. 4 Stanford, No. 6 Washington, No. 8 UCLA, No. 9 California and No. 14 Oregon, Arizona is overshadowed in its conference alone.

That’s not even considering the historically great programs from across the nation, like current No. 1 Penn State, No. 10 Nebraska and unranked USC.

Pressure of keeping a team’s reputation after the regular season has long been the downfall of teams going into the postseason. The teams that have gone undefeated with the perfect season on the line, or the programs that have long established themselves as a “”tournament team”” are held to a certain level of play.

The Wildcats don’t have that pressure. They have absolutely nothing expected of them.

“”When there are no preconceived expectations, you just go in and make your own,”” said Weber. “”When you know who the seeds are you know who the top target is on. If you go in with no real target on us, specifically at this time, I think is an advantage. No pressure at this point.””

This is an advantage for Arizona. With no expectations and no pressure to continue the team can have a clear mind and just play its game, and that’s exactly what head coach Dave Rubio wants.

“”That’s the thing about post-season — people put so much into it. ‘You have to play so well, you have to play so perfect.’ It’s not really about that,”” he said.

“”It’s really about accomplishing what you do every day in practice,”” Rubio added. “”If you can do that, you’re going to put yourself in a position to play at your level.””

The Wildcats need to keep a level head if they’re going to make a splash at this year’s tournament.

There’s nothing expected of the Wildcats, so they should take the opportunity to play without pressure. They’re not seeded. They’ve never won a championship.

Arizona should use this absence as motivation and make the most of its place in the tournament bracket. Take the cards it’s given and run with the opportunity to be one of the most clichéd terms in all sports — a Cinderella.

“”Everyone wants to be the Cinderella team that pulls the big upset,”” said Weber. “”There’s a feeling like you have something to go for. (It) kind of gives you a renewed sense of determination to come in and practice.””

Will Arizona be the Cinderella of the 2009 tournament? That’s yet to be seen. But with no pressure to perform, why not?

— Nicole Dimtsios is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu

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