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Depth gives volleyball hope for 2005 season

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
The No. 17 Arizona volleyball team will host the annual Four Points University Plaza Wildcat Classic this weekend. They will open games on today and tomorrow with games against Winthrop, Georgia Tech and Northwestern, but the team will be without junior setter Stephanie Butkus, who suffered a concussion during a practice Aug. 25.
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 2, 2005
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With 18 players, the No. 17 Arizona women's volleyball team will have plenty of depth as it kicks off the season with the Four Points University Plaza Wildcat Classic in McKale Center this weekend.

Arizona will face off against Winthrop today at 10 a.m. and No. 20 Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. The tournament concludes tomorrow, as Arizona battles Northwestern at 7 p.m.

"They're in good shape, and I think they should be able to handle the physical rigors of something like that," said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio of his players. "It certainly gives us an opportunity to play some other people should we need to do that or should we have the flexibility to do that."

Rubio said the starting libero role has been narrowed down to two newcomers - freshman Brittany Leonard and sophomore transfer Katie Jackels.

"I think right now we're just not sure," Rubio said. "We'll have to make that decision. It may be a game-time decision based on ... how they kind of work out and who's playing better at the time."

Junior setter Stephanie Butkus is expected to start in the tournament. She did not play in last weekend's Red-Blue Scrimmage after suffering a concussion in an August 25 practice.

"I'm better now," she said. "I'm still a little dizzy at times during practice. (But) I should be fine this weekend."

2005 Arizona women's volleyball veason opener

Four Points University Plaza Wildcat Classic McKale Center

Arizona vs. Winthrop - 10 a.m.
Arizona vs. Georgia Tech - 7 p.m.
Arizona vs. Northwestern - 7 p.m.

Winthrop is 2-0 after sweeping William and Mary last weekend to begin the season. Senior outside hitter Mary Hock, the reigning Big South Conference Player of the Year, led her team with 30 kills over the two matches.

Last season, Winthrop boasted a 14-0 mark in the Big South Conference and a 31-4 overall record.

"I think Winthrop is a very good program," Rubio said. "They're picked to win their conference."

The Wildcats' encounter with the Yellow Jackets is expected to be the premier matchup of the tournament.

Georgia Tech went 14-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year.

Georgia Tech lost two All-Americans and returns four starters, including American Volleyball Coaches Association honorable mention, All-American setter Lindsey Laband. Laband led the nation with 18.64 assists per game last year.

"I think in terms of the three schools that are here, (Georgia Tech) has the postseason history and they're the ACC champion," Rubio said. "But I think that Northwestern is a young, talented team, well-coached. On paper, Georgia Tech would probably be the one that people would point to as the being the most competitive."

Northwestern began the season with a victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday. The team returns five starters from last year's squad, which finished with an overall record of 10-20 and a 5-15 mark in the Big Ten Conference.

"We're playing good teams, but probably no one as good as the ones in our conference," said sophomore setter Brittany Esser. Six Pacific 10 Conference schools are ranked in the national Top 25. "(Still) it will be a good way to start."

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