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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

V-ball tourney-bound vs. Aggies

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Tim Glass
Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat

It will be a Big 12/Pacific 10 Conference battle for Arizona volleyball in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Baton Rouge, La.

The No. 19 Wildcats will meet unranked Texas A&M today at 5 p.m. CT at Louisiana State University’s Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

The Aggies, who finished tied with Baylor and Oklahoma for fourth place in the Big 12 Conference, come into the tournament riding a four-match winning streak.

While Texas A&M finished in the middle of its conference and with a respectable 18-10 record, Arizona head coach Dave Rubio doesn’t think that this test will overwhelm Arizona (19-10, 8-10 Pac-10).

“”They’re very good,”” Rubio said. “”But they’re not anything that we haven’t faced before. Its not like we’re going in there and feeling like we have to play perfect; we don’t. We have to do what we do, and do it well.””

Like Arizona, this is the first time the Aggies have received a bid in the NCAA Tournament since 2005. Although both teams enter the tournament with similar seasons, Texas A&M is an unfamiliar opponent, which may be the toughest thing for Arizona. The last time Arizona volleyball faced an Aggies squad was on Nov. 17, 1990. No Wildcat team under Rubio has never encountered Texas A&M.

“”Obviously we expect to go and play well,”” said junior setter Paige Weber. “”I don’t think you can actually give yourself any expectations just because you win and you keep going. If you lose, you’re done.””

The rest of the teams in the Wildcats’ pod are also relatively unfamiliar to Arizona. Aside from Tulane, who the Wildcats defeated in the pre-conference season this year, Arizona may also have to play host LSU, who finished as the 2009 SEC Champions and No. 15 seed in the tournament.

“”They’re all good obviously,”” said Weber of the teams playing in Arizona’s first-round bracket this year. “”When you get to the tournament everyone has earned the right to be there, so they have to have something to them.””

But before Arizona can look ahead, it needs to defeat the Aggies. Executing their game plan and limiting errors will be key for the Wildcats in the match. This season, Arizona has shown that it can compete with the top of the Pac-10 but that a lack of focus can throw it off.

The unfamiliarity with Texas A&M may be exactly what Arizona needs to focus on its game plan.

“”We’re going to face a couple faces we haven’t seen before but it still comes down to execution and who can execute better,”” Rubio said.

A defensive presence will also be key for Arizona in the first round of tournament action. Arizona’s blockers will try to slow down the Aggies’ leading outside hitters Jennifer Banse and Sarah Ammerman, both All-Big-12 First Team Selections.

“”I know that they’re really big with their outside hitters,”” senior middle blocker Jacy Norton said. “”You know we’re working on closing the block, making sure that we put up a solid block.””

If they defeat the Aggies on Friday, the Wildcats will play on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. CT.

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