Tourney run starts tonight

By Sam Spiller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 4, 1996

Gregory Harris
Arizona Daily Wildcat

The UA volleyball team has secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament with a 19-9 record. The No. 20 Wildcats will start the tournament tonight at San Diego.


Last season the Arizona volleyball team was able to manage only a 15-15 record and did not make it to the NCAA Tournament. This season, everything is different.

"Our goal all along has been to make the tournament," UA head coach Dave Rubio said.

Mission accomplished.

The 20th-ranked Wildcats (19-9) will travel to San Diego (22-7) tonight in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite being the highest ranked team to have to travel for its first match, Arizona seems confident.

"It is hectic because it changes some of the normal routines during the week," Rubio said. "All the adjustments they have to make are a welcome change because this is what it's all about."

The Toreros finished second in the Western Athletic Conference and are making their second tournament appearance. They have won 11 of their last 13 matches. They are led by outside hitters Petia Yanchulova and LaManda Mounts and middle blocker Sara Gunsau lus. Yanchulova and Mounts have 417 and 414 kills, respectively, this season.

"They are a good team with some very talented players," Rubio said. "They have three legitimate players who can get up and swing and terminate on a regular basis."

Arizona has its own players that can terminate on a regular basis. Senior outside hitter Barb Bell and freshman middle blocker Erin Aldrich have carried the offensive load for the Wildcats this season. Bell was named to the All-Pacific 10 Conference first team for the third time in her career, while Aldrich was named to the All-Freshman team.

Bell has 481 kills this season and Aldrich is second with 242. Outside hitters Michelle Fanger and Carolyn Penfield add offensive support, and Michaela Ebben, who is averaging 11.09 assists per game, will start at setter. The key reserves are defensive sp ecialist Sara Johnson and outside hitter Heidi Bomberger.

If Arizona wins it will play No. 11 Pacific (25-6) in Stockton, Calif., on Friday. The Tigers finished second in the Big West Conference's Western Division, behind Long Beach State.

"I feel good about the teams we could face in our region," Rubio said. "I don't think there's anyone out there that has the same type of firepower as some of the teams we've played in our conference."