By Amanda Branam
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona junior Kristina Baum attempts a block during a home match last season in McKale Center. Baum and the Wildcats will spend their long in Hawaii at the Rainbow Wahine Classic.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 3, 2004
Let’s face it, life isn’t fair.
Case in point: The Arizona volleyball team is spending its Labor Day weekend in Hawaii, while the rest of the UA student population tries to assess the damage caused by two weeks of classes.
Things may not seem completely fair for the No. 17 Wildcats either, though. With a less-than-healthy roster of players available, Arizona will have its work cut out for it as it competes in three matches in three games at the Rainbow Wahine Classic in Honolulu.
Action gets underway today as the Wildcats (1-0) face off against Eastern Washington at 9 p.m. The tournament continues tomorrow as Arizona competes against San Diego at 5 p.m. The Wildcats will conclude their road trip on Sunday at 9 p.m. against the home team, No. 13 Hawaii.
Although Hawaii is the only nationally ranked team other than Arizona at the tournament, UA head coach Dave Rubio said his coaching staff will not ignore any team this early in the season.
“Eastern Washington is always well coached and always plays hard,” Rubio said. “I think that (it returns) a lot of players. I haven’t really looked at the roster too much but we are going to have to play well to win that match.”
Eastern Washington boasted a 22-8 record in 2003 — while going 13-1 in the Big Sky Conference — but fell in the Big Sky Championship match, preventing the Eagles from making it to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.
“San Diego is typically a team that is ranked all year long and in years past,” Rubio said of the Wildcats’ second opponent. “They have several transfers and they are definitely a team that is going to be ranked in the future.”
Just like the Wildcats, the Toreros of San Diego return all six starters and the libero from last season. The team went 17-13 on the year before losing to the University of California, Irvine in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
But it is Hawaii — who has made 11 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances — that is expected to challenge the Wildcats the most. The Rainbow Wahine finished the 2003 season with a 36-2 record and advanced to the national semifinals. The home favorite returns just one starter from last year’s roster, though, which now consists of eight freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors and just two seniors.
“Hawaii of course has been one of the best programs in the country historically and they graduated seven seniors last year, so (that accounts for) their whole starting lineup of their Final Four team,” Rubio said. “So they are going to be very young but very good. They always have really good volleyball players.”
Rubio said the Wildcats are careful not to concentrate on opponent rankings.
“We have to play our game,” said junior outside hitter Kim Glass. “I mean, any team can beat us. If we don’t play the game that we know how to play, it doesn’t matter if they are ranked or not. I mean, a lot of teams are underrated. We’re underrated too.
“We don’t care that Hawaii’s ranked,” said Glass, who is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury. “They lost a couple of the players that I think really carried the team. They are having a rebuilding year also. They are going to be struggling like we were last year. I think that we should take advantage of that.”
“We played Hawaii last year too,” said senior libero Cassidy Crum. “We’ve been in the gym, except for the freshmen, and we know some of the players that are there already. You look at the rankings. You know that they’re always going to be a solid and consistently good team. It’s not an intimidation factor because I think that we are pretty intimidating too.”
The Wildcats are undefeated all-time against both Eastern Washington (3-0) and San Diego (7-0). But Arizona has yet to win a match against Hawaii, losing all nine of the teams’ matches.
Despite their surroundings for the long weekend, Rubio said the purpose of the Wildcats’ trip is business, not pleasure.
“Our players can have one hour in the sun if they want,” Rubio said. “I think we’ll end up doing that, but that will be it. For a lot of people, Hawaii is a vacation spot. For me it’s not. It’s a tournament spot for me and we need to treat it that way.”