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Cats open Pac-10 season against Beavers, Ducks

Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy and the No. 15 Wildcats will open Pac-10 play at home this weekend, taking on both Oregon State and Oregon. The Oregon Ducks are off to their best start in history (10-1) and could surface as a formidable opponent for the Wildcats (8-1).
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 23, 2005
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Volleyball hoping to trample the Pac-10 opposition

After spending two consecutive weekends on the road, the No. 15 Arizona volleyball team returns to McKale Center to kick off the Pacific 10 Conference season today.

The Wildcats (8-1) take on Oregon State (5-2) at 7 p.m. and plays Oregon (10-1) tomorrow at 7 p.m.

Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said that while both Oregon schools have remained in the bottom half of the Pac-10 in recent years, the competitive nature of the conference makes it hard to typecast any team.

"The difference between the bottom half and the top half (of the conference) is very small and very much like the margin of winning and losing," he said.

The Beavers are coming off a five-game victory against British Columbia in an exhibition match Saturday. Oregon State went 1-2 the previous weekend in the Colorado State Hilton Classic, as the Beavers fell to UC-Irvine and host Colorado State but defeated Virginia Tech.

Oregon is off to its best start in 32 years under new head coach Jim Moore, as the Ducks have already matched their win total from last year.

"Jim Moore at Oregon has been successful wherever he's gone, and he's the classic guy who does a great job of rebuilding programs," Rubio said.

Oregon State (5-2) at Arizona (8-1)
today, 7 p.m.
McKale Center

Oregon (10-1) at Arizona
tomorrow, 7 p.m.
McKale Center

The Ducks topped Fresno State twice last weekend, sweeping the Bulldogs Sept. 16 and winning three games to one on Saturday.

Freshman middle blocker Mira Djuric and senior outside hitter Kelly Russell lead the Oregon offense, averaging 4.53 and 4.45 kills per game, respectively.

"We certainly have our hands full," Rubio said. "It's not going to be like in the years past where Oregon was just a secondary thought for us."

"I expect every team to come and play us really hard, especially (Oregon)," said senior outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy, who is averaging 3.87 kills and 3.33 digs per game this season. "Everybody's always set out to beat Arizona, and we're not going to take anybody lightly."

The Wildcats seized the championship of the Rhode Island Invitational last weekend, sweeping Connecticut and Rhode Island and defeating North Carolina three games to one.

Senior outside hitter Kim Glass was named tournament MVP, while fellow senior outside hitter Bre Ladd and Abernathy were also named to the all-tournament team.

In addition to the veterans, the Wildcats have relied on their youth in the forms of sophomore setter Amy Dyck and freshman libero Brittany Leonard.

Dyck averages 8.37 assists per game, while Leonard averages a team-high 3.56 digs per game.

Rubio said that he is relieved to start the competitive Pac-10 season on Arizona's home court.

"We've been on the road the last couple of weeks," he said. "So it's going to be nice to play at home and give the players a chance to catch up academically."

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