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Tourney seeding at stake for Cats

By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
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The UA volleyball team has gone from a non-tournament-bound team to possibly hosting a tourney game. It will have a chance to continue its amazing climb Saturday at No. 22 UC Santa Barbara.

No. 21 Arizona (17-13, 10-8 Pacific 10 Conference) travels to the Thunderdome on Saturday to close out the regular season at UCSB (18-8, 14-4 Big West Conference), in hopes of strengthening its NCAA tournament position. The brackets for the tournament will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. on ESPNEWS.

The match could figure to be a big one as far as bracketing - but that's what the Wildcats thought last year at this time, when they lost to 24-8 Utah (which was not one of the 16 seeded teams).

"To be honest with you, I don't know," said UA head coach Dave Rubio, about the importance of the match against the Gauchos. "Last year, we lost in our last (regular season) game to Utah, and I really thought that took us out of the seeding, and not only were we seeded last year, but we were seeded tenth and we got a chance to host."

A win over the Big West Champion Gauchos would figure to help the UA's chances to host again this year.

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  • Tournament Bracket Announcement
    Sunday 6 p.m. ESPNEWS
  • "I do know that we'll be in the tournament, though. I'm 100 percent sure that will occur," Rubio said.

    In addition to the help that beating UCSB would bring, the UA could also benefit by New Mexico State's Sun Belt championship. The Wildcats beat NMSU, 3-0, earlier this season.

    "There's a couple things that are in our favor," Rubio said. "One is if we happen to beat Santa Barbara - that puts us in a top 16 position. I think also with New Mexico State already earning a bid by winning their conference - and geographically, that puts them next to us - I think that also bodes well for us as a potential site."

    Rubio said the Wildcats are in a good position geographically, being able to pull teams from Texas, Colorado and California in their bid to host. Rubio also said the committee would avoid putting the Wildcats in the same sub-regional as a Pac-10 team, thinking the "Conference of Champions" might end up playing a few matches with Big West teams.

    Though this isn't a conference match, the Wildcats get to play the Gauchos for a second time this season after losing to then-No. 11 UCSB, 3-1, when the UA was ranked 14th early in the year.

    "Even (Monday's Northern Arizona) match, we don't look at it as being non-conference. It's a game and it's an opportunity to put another win on the board, so that's basically how we're approaching this," said sophomore middle blocker Bre Ladd. "I think everybody's excited about going there and to play because they did upset us here last time, but everybody knows we're completely different than we were when we played last. I think it will be a really good match. I think it will be interesting to see what happens."

    "We're a completely different team," added UA senior Kelly Griffin-Halfaker about her team's improvements since the teams last met. "I don't really know how to explain. We're playing as a team now. We're not individuals out there trying to win. We've improved a lot since the last time we played them."

    Although the Gauchos are coming off a five-game loss to Cal Poly (13-16, 5-13), their head coach, Kathy Gregory, was named Big West Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season.

    Five Wildcats honored as All-Pac-10 selections

    UA sophomore outside hitter Kim Glass was named to the All-Pac-10 team yesterday for the second time in as many seasons, while Ladd and sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy were Pac-10 honorable mention honorees.

    Also, opposite hitter Kristina Baum and setter Stephanie Butkus were All-Freshman honorable mentions.

    Southern California's April Ross was named Pac-10 Player of the Year, while Kristin Richards of Stanford was honored as Pac-10 Freshman of the Year and California's Rich Feller was credited as Pac-10 Coach of the Year.

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