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Volleyball opens LA road trip at UCLA

DAVID HARDEN/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Kristina Baum (left) and Bre Ladd block a spike from American's Cutrina Biddulp.
By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday October 10, 2003

The good news for the UA volleyball team is that its hardest stretch ever facing four consecutive top-10 teams is almost over.

The bad news: The toughest part comes this weekend.

Tonight, Arizona (6-9, 0-5 Pacific 10 Conference) hits Pauley Pavilion to face No. 8 UCLA (12-2, 4-1), then heads across town tomorrow to the Lyon Center to play No. 1 Southern California (14-0, 5-0). The Bruins, in Westwood, are the only team to win a game against the Women of Troy, winning the second game of the Los Angeles schools' first Pac-10 match.

The Wildcats have reason to be optimistic, as they have won two of their last three matches at Pauley, and are one of two visiting teams in the last three years to defeat USC at home.

"I think we are pretty much keeping a good attitude," said sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy. "I mean, we know what we can do and what we need to do. I think this weekend, our main goal is just to play as a team and play hard consistently."

UCLA is led by junior middle blocker Brynn Murphy, the Pac-10 Player of the Week, who is leading the Bruins with 195 kills, and 2002 All-Pac-10 junior libero Chrissie Zartman. Zartman leads the Pac-10 in digs per game, and tallied her 1,000th career dig last weekend against Washington.

"UCLA's a very good team; Solid, though not as physical as USC," Rubio said. "They're experienced. A lot of their kids have been in the program a long time now. They're juniors and seniors, so they just play with the maturity of an experienced team."

UCLA returned four starters and 11 letterwinners from last year's 20-14 team that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Bruins' only losses this season are to No. 2 Hawaii and the undefeated Trojans.

While the Bruins have the current Pac-10 player of the week in junior middle Brynn Murphy, they will be without senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Natalie Ray, who was hospitalized this week due to multiple blood clots in her right arm and shoulder, the UCLA Daily Bruin reported yesterday.

Before the season, the Pac-10 coaches chose USC to win the conference, followed by Stanford, with the Bruins tied with Arizona for third.

The defending national and conference champion Trojans, who return all six starters and their libero from last year, lead the conference in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, assists and kills. USC is one of only three undefeated Division I teams.

Arizona will be looking to win its first game against USC since beating the Trojans, 3-2 in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, to make it to the 2001 Final Four. Rubio has a 1-9 record against No. 1 teams in his tenure at Arizona, beating only UCLA in 1993 his second season with the Wildcats.

Unlike Arizona, USC has a balanced attack, with three players averaging more than three kills per game, three averaging more than one block per game, three averaging more than 2.5 digs per game and three hitting above or around .400.

UA leans heavily on sophomore outside hitter Kim Glass, who averages 5.43 kills per game. Glass is sixth in the Pac-10 among active kill leaders halfway through her second season, and is ranked 15th in the country.

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