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Volleyball notes: Underclassmen shining early in season

Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore middle blocker Dominique Lamb (10), with Stephanie Butkus against Georgia Tech on Sept. 2, is anchoring the position after showing improvement from her freshman campaign. Lamb ranks ninth in the Pac-10 in both blocks per game (1.17) and hitting percentage (.369).
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 22, 2005
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Lamb, Leonard show consistency, improvement

Though the No. 15 Arizona volleyball team relies on the leadership and athleticism of seniors Kim Glass, Jennifer Abernathy and Bre Ladd, the underclassmen are pulling their own weight at libero and middle blocker.

Sophomore middle blocker Dominique Lamb has come into her own this season, as she has taken on the responsibility of being the anchor of the position.

"I've been playing middles my whole life, so I'm definitely comfortable," she said.

The Chandler native ranks ninth in the Pacific 10 Conference in blocks per game (1.17) and hitting percentage (.369).

"I think I've improved tremendously (since last year)," she said. "I think (Arizona head coach Dave Rubio) feels more comfortable playing me, and I feel comfortable with myself more. (But) my blocking needs to get better."

Oregon St. at Arizona
When: 7 p.m. tomorrow
Where: McKale Center

Oregon at Arizona
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: McKale Center

Rubio said he agreed that Lamb has improved since her freshman campaign but that there are areas for further development, both offensively and defensively.

"She has a much better feel for the position and I still think that she has a lot of room for improvement," Rubio said. "I think offensively she can (improve) and I think from a blocking standpoint she can get a lot better. But she seems to be feeling a little more comfortable. I always feel like she's trying a little bit too hard and (being) a little bit too hard on herself."

Freshman libero Brittany Leonard is the predominant starter at her position, although sophomores Katie Jackels and Emily Harper are expected to compete with Leonard for playing time.

"Right now, Brittany is the player that's demonstrating the most consistency in that position," Rubio said. "The hope is that some of the kids come up and step up the challenge and compete with her.

"Brittany's terrific, but competition is good for that position, and we need some other players that are going to push her a little bit."

Leonard averaged a team-high 3.56 digs per game in last weekend's Rhode Island Invitational and ranks ninth in the Pac-10 in digs per game.

"I like her presence and I like her self-confidence and I like how tough she is," Rubio said. "I think that those intangibles have really helped her fit right in with the starting group."

Injury update

Arizona (8-1) is in good health as it begins Pac-10 Conference play tomorrow against Oregon State.

With the exception of junior setter Stephanie Butkus, who injured her medial collateral ligament Sept. 9 and will be sidelined for six to eight weeks, Rubio said his team has a mostly clean bill of health.

"I think we're in pretty good shape, although I'm hearing that a lot of the players are sick right now," he said. "But in terms of long, sustaining injuries, Stephanie is the only one right now that I see as a problem for us (and who is) going to be out for any length of time."

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