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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats seek brighter 2nd half

    UA head coach Dave Rubio talks with the volleyball team during a break in the three-game loss to No. 3 Stanford last Thursday in McKale Center. Rubio said the teams intensity will transition into a better second half of conference play.
    UA head coach Dave Rubio talks with the volleyball team during a break in the three-game loss to No. 3 Stanford last Thursday in McKale Center. Rubio said the team’s intensity will transition into a better second half of conference play.

    Just looking at the wins and losses can be a bit deceiving.

    Halfway through its conference season, the Arizona volleyball team has won two of its nine matches against fellow Pacific 10 Conference teams. But head coach Dave Rubio says the numbers are misleading when considering the way his team has been playing – close games against great teams. The second half, he said, looks very promising.

    “”We’re putting ourselves in a position to win and we’re not closing things out like we should and we’re capable of,”” he said after No. 3 Stanford swept the Wildcats by a total of 10 points Thursday. “”I wish it were more complicated than that, but it’s not.

    “”You can see we’re not that far away,”” he added. “”And yet, there’s not consolation in playing a great team close and losing.””

    Conference play hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park for Arizona. Six of the seven conference loses for the Wildcats (12-9, 2-7 Pac-10) have come against ranked teams that represent arguably the most talented conference in the nation for the sport. Five of the six teams were ranked in the top 10 at the time of the matchup.

    “”Our conference is just really intense,”” said Brittany Leonard, a defensive specialist. “”I think the Pac-10 is the hardest conference to be in …We never have a day off.””

    The squad finds itself in a slightly better position than it was at this time last year, when it was 10-11 and had only one Pac-10 win. En route to having the first season without an NCAA tournament berth in 11 years, last year’s group won three of the final nine conference matchups, including a weekend sweep over then-No. 25 Oregon and Oregon State.

    If anything, this season’s second half looks brighter than last season’s because of how close the Wildcats have played their toughest opponents. Here is a breakdown of the first half of this season:

    • Loss at No. 5 UCLA in four games. Lost by only three points in the first and fourth games
  • Loss at No. 4 USC in five. Took a 2-1 lead but couldn’t finish
  • Win vs. OSU in three.
  • Loss vs. No. 21 Oregon. Finished each of last two games with 29 points in sweep
  • Win at Washington State in four. Hit .161 to the Huskies’ .165
  • Loss at No. 8 Washington in three. Mauled by 15, 16 and eight points, respectively
  • Loss at ASU in three. Fell by a total of nine points
  • Loss vs. No. 3 Stanford in three. Dropped by a total of 10 points
  • Loss vs. No. 9 California in five. After winning first two games, lost final three
  • Playing some of the toughest teams in the nation is not the only obstacle the team has had to overcome this season. On top of minor injuries to several players throughout the season and two opposite hitters coming back from offseason surgery (Randy Goodenough, elbow; Brooke Buringrud, shoulder), a major player has been lost for the entire season.

    After having an outstanding freshman campaign, sophomore outside hitter Whitney Dosty is redshirting the year after having knee problems stemming from a summer tour in Beijing with the USA National volleyball team.

    The second half of the conference is always so much different than the first. So many things change.

    Randy Goodenough, opposite hitter

    That’s where Tiffany Owens comes in. The freshman outside hitter, who Rubio has compared to recent Wildcat greats Jennifer Abernathy and Kim Glass, struggled mildly stepping up to the college game but has done better of late. She had a career-high 17 kills against Cal on Friday.

    Setter Paige Weber has also made a smooth transition to the college game. The freshman sits fifth in the Pac-10 in assists with 12.36 per game.

    Sophomore Alanna Resch was moved from outside hitter to libero just before the conference season began, moving Leonard and Katie Jackels to the defensive specialist positions.

    “”We’re relying on a lot of young players to perform,”” Rubio said. “”Whether it’s Alanna at libero or Paige as a setter or Tiffany. They’re growing up fast in a

    conference that has some outstanding seniors and juniors that are playing. …We’ve got to really be precise in almost everything that we do. There’s not much margin for error when we’re competing against one of these top teams.””

    The Wildcats will have their work cut out for them early in the second half of conference play, as they take on No. 16 Oregon tomorrow in Eugene.

    “”The second half of the conference is always so much different than the first,”” Goodenough said. “”So many things change.””

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