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Volleyball team faces Virginia in NCAA tournament


Joshua D. Trujillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Sophomore setter Dana Burkholder sets the ball as freshman middle blocker Stefani Saragosa looks on. Burkholder and the Wildcats are in Austin, Texas tonight as they take on Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

By Ryan Finley
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
December 2, 1999
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If basketball has March Madness, then volleyball has December Delirium.

UA opens up play in the NCAA Tournament tonight, as they face-off against the University of Virginia in a first-round contest in Austin, Texas. This is the fourth-straight appearance for the Wildcats and their sixth appearance in seven years in the NCAA Tournament.

UA is led by junior middle blocker Marisa DaLee, who set a new record for kill percentage in a match, hitting .750 on Saturday against Texas-El Paso.

The 6-foot-3 middle blocker has been somewhat of an enigma all season, showing flashes of greatness one night, while seeming to fall short the next. While her size and ability have catapulted her to the top of the Pacific 10 Conference, a perceived lack of mental intensity has plagued her at times.

The Wildcats have cut their teeth all season on talented teams, the latest being No. 3 Hawaii, who defeated UA in four games last Friday. Against the 10 UA opponents that made the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats were 4-10. Currently, UVA is unranked.

The match against the Cavaliers will mark the first time the two teams have met. UVA is 19-11 on the season, their latest loss coming at the hands of Clemson in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. UVA finished the season with a 9-7 record in conference play.

The Cavaliers are led by junior Deanna Zwarwich and senior setter Mary Francis Scott, who has averaged 13.41 assists per match in the 1999 campaign.

Should the Wildcats win tonight, they would face either No. 15 Texas or Houston on Friday night.

Should Texas win, it would present an interesting scenario for the Wildcats, since former UA middle blocker Erin Aldrich currently plays for the Longhorns.

Aldrich, also an Olympic-caliber high jumper, reportedly left UA to join her former Wildcat jump coach at UT.

The middle blocker has found success in Austin, becoming an All-American candidate in volleyball while holding three NCAA high jump national titles. She recently turned down an offer to join the 2000 Olympic Team in volleyball.

Aldrich's departure has allowed DaLee to step in and become a two-time all Pacific 10 Conference first team player.

The NCAA Tournament will be full of challenges, if Arizona advances.

The Wildcats appear to have been slighted in the seeding process. Ranked fifth in the Pacific sub-region, besides the possibility of facing Texas, looming beyond that is a match against No. 2 Stanford. UA head coach David Rubio admitted that he was "a little ambivalent" about the seeding and the region.

Despite the fact that Rubio claimed that "We're just going to take this one match at a time," one can't help but think that the Wildcats would like to face both Aldrich, who openly told another newspaper that she wonders how good the UA team would be if only she'd stayed.

However, the Wildcats can't afford to overlook an unranked but talented Virginia team.

"Our focus right now is on Virginia," Rubio said. "Virginia was obviously deemed worthy of a bid. We need to worry about beating them first, then worry about beating everybody else."

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