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Volleyball also plays host to ╬Jacks

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona freshman Kristina Baum attempts to block a Washington State player last week in McKale Center. The UA plays NAU today.
By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday November 24, 2003
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Arizona volleyball head coach Dave Rubio didn't exactly try to hide the fact that he scheduled this morning's match with Northern Arizona to help the Wildcats earn a winning record.

But after the team's weekend sweep, today now looks like nothing more than a chance to give the reserves some playing time.

No. 25 Arizona (16-14, 10-8 Pacific 10 Conference) is guaranteed to finish with a winning record, which is needed to qualify for the NCAA tournament, after a pair of 3-1 wins over No. 11 Washington (19-8, 10-9) and Washington State (5-20, 9-13) Friday and Saturday.

The Wildcats host NAU (13-15, 7-7 Big Sky) this morning at 10:30 in McKale Center. Admission is free.

The win over the Huskies was the Wildcats' fifth over opponents ranked 11th or higher and their 10th victory in their last 13 Pac-10 matches.

Now that Arizona is assured a winning record, the team is confident it'll be in the tournament come Selection Sunday in six days.

"You know for sure we're in," Rubio said. "I say that as sure as I can be. You are not going to leave a team that has beaten five teams of the top 11 out of the tournament."

Since the field was expanded to 64 teams, every Pac-10 team with a winning record has clinched a tourney berth. Last year, when the league had eight teams, a 15-12 Arizona State team made it in, as did California, which was 7-11 in the conference.

"We're going," said sophomore outside hitter Kim Glass, who had 31 kills on Saturday. "It's a fact now: we're definitely going. I think we're going to the Final Four."

Arizona rebounded from an 0-5 start to finish 10-8 in the Pac-10 ¸ the conference that is widely considered the nation's best. The Pac-10 has four teams in the top 10, and Washington has been ranked as high as No. 5 this year.

The UA ended up tied with the Huskies for fifth in the conference.

"I told the players in the locker room how remarkable it is that we finished the season 10-8 after starting 0-5," Rubio said. "They should be exceptionally proud of that."

Now the Wildcats, with the Lumberjacks and a trip to No. 19 UC-Santa Barbara remaining, may have a chance to be one of the 16 seeded teams. The UA may also even get to host a first- and second-round game on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.

"Now I told them, ╬How much do we got left in the tank?' If we win these next two matches, I think we're going to be a seed," Rubio said. "It is purely speculation on my part, but I think we can definitely be a seed and maybe even possibly host. It's pretty gratifying for everybody that we've been able to have such a good second half of the season."

The weekend also saw Glass shatter a host of school records, including her single-season mark for kills (556) and the career record for matches with 20-plus kills (31). She also tied the UA career record for matches with 30-plus kills with her third this season, and tied the season mark for matches with 10-plus kills.

As usual, Glass wasn't exactly ecstatic about her new records.

"I had 11 errors," Glass said. "When I have 11 errors, I don't think about anything else. Record-breaking doesn't mean anything."

When told of Glass' latest records, Rubio said, "Wow, that's pretty amazing."

Against Washington State, sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy had a career-high five service aces, including three in game three and two in a row at one point, complementing a stellar night for the Wildcat servers.

Their 16 service aces against the Cougars tied for the school's second most all time, one behind the record, which is from the five-game match at Oregon in 1990 and the four-game match against Houston in 1983.

"That's unheard of; that kind of stuff just doesn't happen," Rubio said. "It was the thing that I thought changed the whole complexion of the match."

NAU, the fifth seed in the Big Sky Conference Tournament, will be well rested as they bowed out in the first round to the fourth seed, Montana State, 3-0 on Thursday. Earlier in the season, Arizona swept Eastern Washington, the Big Sky's regular season champ and conference-tourney host.

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