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Friday September 1, 2000

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Volleyball team

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UA junior setter Dana Burkholder sets the ball for junior middle blocker Erin Sebbas in a game last season at McKale Center. Arizona opens its season today in San Diego at the "Diggin' It" 2000 Tournament.

By Kamy Shaygan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

No. 10 Wildcats start season against UC Santa Barbara

With expectations the highest they have been in the program's history, the No. 10 Arizona women's volleyball team begins its season today at the "Diggin' It" 2000 tournament at Cox Arena in San Diego.

The Wildcats, who enter 2000 with a top-10 ranking for the first time in program history, will face No. 14 UC Santa Barbara today at 4:00 p.m.

The last time the two teams met was in 1995 when Arizona defeated the Gauchos, 3-1. In the nine-match history between the two teams, the Gauchos have won five times.

The Gauchos, coached by the USVBA Hall-of-Famer Kathy Gregory, are known for their intense style of play.

"Kathy Gregory has been one of the top female coaches in the country for years," Arizona head coach David Rubio said. "Traditionally, Santa Barbara's style of play is tenacious. They are unbelievable competitors on that team."

Despite his outward confidence, Rubio is concerned that his Wildcats have to face the Gauchos, a national powerhouse, in the first round of the tournament.

"They present a great challenge for the first match of the year," he said. It's a little nerve-racking, but that's okay. We need to test ourselves right out of the gate."

Despite Rubio's misgivings about facing Santa Barbara, starting senior middle blocker Marisa DaLee has been counting the days until the start of the season. A victory against Santa Barbara would help solidify UA's place in the national rankings.

"I'm really excited about facing Santa Barbara," DaLee said. "I have been here for five years, and I have never played Santa Barbara. I have heard so much about Kathy Gregory and her program - if we beat them, it will be big."

Along with the Gauchos, the Wildcats will be facing San Diego State and the University of San Diego in the tournament.

Rubio believes that the combination of the Aztecs' home-court advantage coupled with SDSU's experience could pose a problem for the Wildcats.

"That's not going to be an easy match," Rubio said. "Simply because they have a lot of experience on their team along with the home-court advantage."

If history is any indication, Rubio and the Wildcats should fare well against the Aztecs. Rubio is 5-0 against SDSU in his career with Arizona.

The Toreros, who return nine players from a 1999 season in which San Diego finished 23-6, are led by senior outside hitter Adrian Frediani.

Frediani, the team's lone senior, was All-West Coast Conference in 1998 and an honorable mention All-WCC selection last season, second on the team in digs (297) and third in kills (303).

The outside hitter may pose a problem for the Wildcats, who were prone to allowing peak individual performances in 1999.

The last thing junior Erin Sebbas - who averaged more than one dig a game last season - wants this weekend is an upset.

"We are just practicing hard to our best potential," Sebbas said. "We don't want any losses or heartbreaks."

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