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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

V-ball goes to Tempe

Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA VB vs. USC
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA VB vs. USC

Arizona continues its quest for the State Farm Territorial Cup tonight when the Wildcats’ volleyball team travels to Tempe to take on ASU.

No. 23 Arizona (15-7, 4-5 Pac-10) won the first meeting of the year in a three-set sweep of the Sun Devils in Tucson, but ASU (9-12, 4-5 Pacific 10 Conference) is playing with a newfound confidence after winning four of its last five in Pac-10 play.

“”I think the biggest thing is they’re playing with great confidence, and they believe they can beat anybody now,”” said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio. “”ASU certainly plays a lot better at home, and we’ll have to contend with that.””

Even though Arizona swept ASU in the first match, Rubio is making sure that his players don’t look at that game when preparing for the second go-around.

“”I did talk about history, and don’t make assumptions of what happened the first round,”” Rubio said. “”I think, at times, you look at those things because they didn’t look very good down here, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t play well up there.””

The Sun Devils are coming off of a split on the road with Washington and Washington State. Although it has been playing well as of late, ASU was swept by Washington and needed five sets to beat Washington State, which is winless in the Pac-10.

Even though ASU has rebounded after a 0-4 start in Pac-10 play, the Arizona players haven’t seen anything different on film strategically from the Sun Devils.

“”Volleyball’s one of the sports where, if you catch a team on a down night and you’re playing well, things happen,”” said setter Paige Weber. “”I don’t know that they’re doing anything differently. They just might be playing a little bit better, but that’s something you expect as the season moves on.””

The match against ASU isn’t only important because it’s a rivalry game and a conference matchup, but it also signals the start of the second half of Pac-10 play.

“”It’s a really big week, starting the second round of play at ASU, who has had some big wins recently,”” said freshman libero Candace Nicholson. “”They’re playing better as a team and starting to gain some confidence, so they’ll be a different team than when we saw them the first time.””

The biggest change in ASU’s team is their newfound focus on the defensive side of the net. Defense can be the deciding factor between keeping a team in a game with a struggling offense or getting blown out 3-0.

“”They’re playing a lot better defense,”” said outside hitter Whitney Dosty. “”We haven’t scouted them a whole lot as of (Wednesday), but I know their defense has gotten a whole lot better and they’re putting some teams away. We need to go in there and be focused and just play our game.””

Despite some recent struggles with the injury bug, the Wildcats are fairly healthy heading into the second half of conference play. Dosty, who has been playing with a stress fracture in her ankle, says she is close to 85 percent healthy after being severely limited the past few weeks in both matches and practice.

Nicholson, who has been battling a cartilage tear in her wrist, will be able to play the rest of the season, despite the injury requiring post-season surgery.

The only player who might miss the ASU match is freshman middle blocker Maddie Lozano, who suffered a minor concussion in practice on Tuesday, but Rubio stopped short of ruling her out for the contest.  

The match will be played at 7 p.m. in Tempe and will be streamed live on FoxSportsArizona.com.

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