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Monday December 4, 2000

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Arizona cruises by Wolverines into the Sweet 16

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By Brian Penso

Arizona Daily Wildcat

DaLee and Talbot lead Arizona to victory

The Arizona volleyball team came one step closer to its dream of winning the school's first NCAA title when they breezed into the "Sweet 16" with a victory against Michigan Friday night at McKale Center.

The No. 5 Wildcats (27-4 overall, 16-2 Pacific 10 Conference) were too much for the Wolverines (19-14, 8-12 Big Ten Conference) to handle en route to a 15-1,15-1, 15-8 UA victory.

"It is wonderful to play that well and - in a result - be able to move on to the next round," Arizona head coach David Rubio said. "Tonight was one of those nights where everything seemed to come together, and it was nice to be on our side of the bench. It was just wonderful to see our players play that well."

Arizona was led by senior middle blocker Marisa DaLee and junior outside hitter Jill Talbot.

DaLee, the nation's fifth leading hitter, finished the match with 13 kills to go with a .667 hitting percentage. DaLee also had a match-high nine blocks..

Talbot had an error -free night on the way to her match-high .714 hitting percentage to go with 10 kills and a match high 10 digs.

"We have been working a lot in practice on connecting with Jill, Marisa and (sophomore middle blocker) Stefani (Saragosa) as well," junior setter Dana Burkholder said. "I think all of our hard work is paying off right now."

Rubio said the team's passing and serving was the key to Arizona's victory.

"We passed exceptionally well tonight," Rubio said. "Our serving and passing enabled our defense to dominate. Marisa started out the game with a few key blocks and our passing and serving enabled us to gain confidence throughout the match"

Michigan's head coach Mark Rosen agreed with Rubio.

"Passing on both sides was the key to the match," Rosen said. "They served and passed well, which helped them. They passed very well and they ran their offense, which makes them a tough team to face."

Rosen was quick to praise Burkholder, the Pac-10's Player of the Year.

"Dana Burkholder put a lot of pressure on us with her presence," Rosen said. "She is always an attacking threat - if she is above the net, you have to focus on her. She does a great job getting (the ball) to her hitters with her athleticism. She just runs Arizona's offense well."

Rubio said that the team is playing its best volleyball of the season right now as they enter the NCAA Tournament's "Sweet 16."

"It marks as one of the best matches," Rubio said. "It is hard to imagine the score and think about beating a good team that decisively. It was just a matter of us coming together at the right time."

Rubio said playing at home was an added advantage for the Wildcats.

"In the tournament, anything can happen and I have been on the other side where Michigan is, and it is not that much fun," Rubio said. "When a team is clicking at home and the crowd is on their side and the band is playing, it is hard to come back."

While the Wildcats will face Brigham Young Friday in Lincoln, Neb., Arizona players said they are unconcerned about their opponents.

"I 'm not worried because if we bring our game, it doesn't matter who is on the other side of the net as long as we show up to play," Talbot said. "We don't care who we play as long as we play our game."