Volleyball seniors spread winning message

By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 25, 2005

After a disappointing postseason run last year, the fate of this season's Arizona women's volleyball team rests squarely on the shoulders of three of its seniors - outside hitters Bre Ladd, Kim Glass and Jennifer Abernathy.

The trio has accepted their leadership roles this season, said Wildcats head coach Dave Rubio.

"I think that those three have really been the core of the team, really since they were freshmen," Rubio said. "I think they've struggled with that label and that role, and I think that this year they've really embraced it.

"And as a result, what we're seeing is probably the best team chemistry that I've had since they've been here."

Although Ladd, Glass and Abernathy are perhaps the most recognizable faces on the team, all three athletes agree that they are but individual components of the team, which returns five starters and welcomes eight newcomers.

"I think that we all are the backbone," said Glass, a two-time All-America selection who underwent offseason surgery on her right, attacking shoulder. "I don't think there's one person holding up the team."

Ladd, who spent the last three seasons as a middle blocker but will now be used as an outside hitter, said that each of them have very outgoing personalities and have learned to lead both silently by example and vocally on the floor.

"I hope that the rest of the team feels that we have a lot of energy, that we're always talking and that we lead by example," she said. "We all work very hard, and we've all been there, so when we have something to say, it's something to listen to."

The leadership styles of Ladd, Glass and Abernathy have not gone unnoticed by the Arizona coaching staff.

"Now they are really co-coaching with me," said Rubio, who is in his 13th season at the program's helm. "So as a result, they're really doing my job of carrying my message to the team, which I think is critical. For a team to achieve its potential, the leaders have to be passing that message on to the rest of the team."

Glass added that although there is stress, she is more confident this year than in previous years.

"There's pressure, but I think I've felt more pressure other years," said Glass, who was not eligible for All-America honors last year because she missed the first 10 matches because of injury. "Right now I'm so relaxed and so laid back. Leading and playing has become so much easier and more natural to me."

Ladd agreed and said that she interprets the pressure as motivation toward the ultimate goal of having a successful postseason performance.

"This is our last chance," she said. "I don't feel pressure to do anything, but it's a want and a drive and a desire that you don't have until you're a senior."

Last season, the Wildcats swept University of California, Irvine in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, only to lose to the University of San Diego in five games in the second round.

This year, both expectation and composure are at all-time highs among players.

"I think we're going on all the way," said Abernathy, who suffered from shin splints most of last season and is still plagued by them. "I really do believe that."

She said that although the seniors are aware that this is their last opportunity to compete collegiately, they do not let that distract them.

"It's hard because we're thinking that every practice is our last practice on that day," she said. "We don't have another a year to make up for it. It's not really bad pressure, per se, but it's just making us more focused and giving us a little more drive."

Rubio said that while there is a significant burden weighing upon the trio, it's nothing that they can't handle.

"We're going to make or break it with those guys, and they know it," he said. "It's not like I'm putting the extra pressure on them. They know that they're the ones that are going to get the job done."