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Monday November 27, 2000

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Arizona volleyball to host first two rounds of NCAA Tournament

Headline Photo

By Brian Penso

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Wildcats receive a No. 2 seed

The Arizona volleyball team found out yesterday that it will enter the upcoming NCAA tournament with a No. 2 seed in the Central Region.

"I like our bracket," UA head coach David Rubio said. "The bottom line is that you have to play good teams to move on, and we will have good teams in our region."

In the first round, the No. 4 Wildcats (25-4 overall, 16-2 Pacific 10 Conference) will face Alabama A&M (31-2, 8-0 Southwest Atlantic Conference), who received an automatic bid by winning the SWAC conference.

Even though the Bulldogs are not ranked, Rubio realizes that every team in the tournament is capable of winning on any given night.

"We definitely can't get too far ahead of ourselves," Rubio said. "It will be business as usual for us."

Rubio said he was pleased with Arizona's seeding - the Wildcats will host the first two rounds.

"It is great that we get to host the first two rounds," senior middle blocker Marisa DaLee said. "It will be a huge advantage for our team."

Going in to this past weekend, UA was shooting for a top seed. However, the Wildcats' hopes were dashed when they were defeated by No. 6 Colorado State in the Community Bankers Classic in Stockton, Calif.

"I am naming that as the last breakdown of the year," junior setter Dana Burkholder said. "We learned a great lesson versus Colorado State, and we had a nice team meeting, and we worked out a couple issues that need to be cleared up. I think that we are ready to go."

Rubio said that Arizona's loss to the Rams was just as good as victory because the team made adjustments that will benefit the Wildcats in the NCAA tournament.

"The issues that came into that match needed to be settled before the postseason, and I feel we did that," Rubio said. "When you get to tournament, you want to be focused on one thing, and I think we have taken the final steps in getting to where we want to be."

While disappointed that the Wildcats did not receive a top seed, Burkholder is excited about Arizona's chances.

"We still have a No. 2 corner spot, which is as good as a No. 1 to me," Burkholder said. "The last couple years, we have not fared very well. Overall, I feel that it is a great bracket with a lot of good matches."

Six Pac-10 teams received bids to the tournament.

No. 3 USC, No. 11 UCLA, Stanford and Arizona were all put in different brackets, which surprised Rubio.

"I think this is the first time in the history in the NCAA committee has put UCLA, Stanford, USC and us in four different brackets," Rubio said. "That has never happened before."

Rubio said that Arizona's aggressive scheduling against No. 9 Florida, USC, UCLA and Colorado State will benefit the Wildcats once the tournament begins.

"We just went through six tough games with Florida, UCLA, USC, Colorado State, which will help us greatly for the tournament," Rubio said. "The close matches we have had will help us greatly."

Sophomore middle blocker Stefani Saragosa is ready to start tournament play.

"It does not make a difference who we go against," she said. "It doesn't make a difference if it is Nebraska - who is undefeated - or our first round opponent, Alabama A&M. I see no difference in a Nebraska or an Arizona. We will just come out and give it all we got and play our hearts out."

Arizona begins the tournament Thursday.