Arizona Daily Wildcat
Burkholder wins Pac-10 Player of the Year
The Arizona volleyball team, coming off its Pacific 10 conference title victory last Saturday, will travel to Stockton, Calif. over Thanksgiving break to play in the Pacific Community Bankers Classic.
The Wildcats will be led by junior setter Dana Burkholder, named the Pac-10 Volleyball Player of the Year yesterday. Burkholder ranks second in the Pac-10 in assists by averaging 13.92 per game.
"It's a pretty big deal," Arizona head coach David Rubio said. "She is a tremendous leader who has an exceptional feel for the position she plays."
Currently, UA is ranked No. 4 in the nation, which means that they could possibly be given one of the top four seeds in the tournament, allowing UA to play the first two rounds and its regional match at the McKale Center.
"(Rubio) knew it was going to boil down to this, and I think that is why this tournament was scheduled," senior outside hitter Allison Napier said. "We definitely want to get one of the top four seeds. To do that, we will have to win this weekend."
In the last three NCAA tournaments, the Wildcats have received a low seed, which caused them to face a higher-ranked team in regional play.
With a top seed, Arizona would have an easier road to the Final Four.
"By winning the Pac-10 title, our team knows how sweet it is to be champions," sophomore Lisa Rutledge said. "We now want more and it starts by getting a top seed."
The tournament begins Friday, when Arizona faces No. 6 Colorado State, a team that lost the 2000 Mountain West Conference title this past weekend to BYU.
The Wildcats will have to continue to pass and serve well to be successful - CSU's 3.28 team blocks-per-game ranks sixth in the nation.
"Playing Colorado state, who is a top ten team will be huge for us," Napier said. "That will be a big game for us."
UA will then play the winner of the San Jose State versus No. 10 Pacific on Saturday.
The Wildcats would rather play the Big West conference champion Tigers in order to solidify its strength of schedule to help them obtain one of the top four seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Besides featuring three of the top ten teams in the nation, this tournament will also be a showcase of three of the best hitters in the country.
Arizona senior Marisa DaLee - who is third in the nation with a.440 hitting percentage - will be matched up with Colorado State's junior middle blocker Angela Knopf, who is second in the nation with a .447 hitting percentage.
Pacific freshman middle blocker Jennifer Joines is also among the nation's best with a .428 hitting percentage, which is fourth in the country
According to Rubio, the tournament's competition will make it as hard as a regional weekend in the postseason.
"We have two really big opponents nationally wise," middle blocker Stefani Saragosa said. "It will be a big wake-up call for us going into the postseason."