By Lindsey Frazier
CHRIS CODUTO/ARIZONA DAILY WILDCAT
UA sophomore Stephanie Butkus sets the ball during the Wildcats' three-match home sweep of the Four Points University Plaza Wildcat Classic last weekend in McKale Center. Butkus and the Wildcats hit the road this week when they head to Washington for the American Tournament.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 17, 2004
The Arizona volleyball team – and its national ranking – is on the move again this week as the squad travels to Washington, D.C., for the American University Tournament.
The No. 15 Wildcats – up four spots after a homestand sweep – open the tournament against host American at 4 p.m. today. Arizona (5-2) will then take on Temple on Saturday at 7 a.m., followed by Albany at 1:30 p.m.
Though none of Arizona's opponents are ranked this weekend, UA head coach Dave Rubio said his coaching staff is careful not to overlook the competition.
Rubio's team will have to once again go to work without the services of junior All-America outside hitter Kim Glass. Glass sat out the team's first five games with a shoulder injury. While her shoulder is OK to start playing again, UA media relations representative Hope Wagner said this week that Glass could miss up to three or four more weeks with an undisclosed medical condition.
"I know American is very good," Rubio said. "American and Temple two years ago beat Penn State in the round of 32. So you just don't know. (American is) like Louisville; they rely a lot on foreign players. Sometimes those foreign players will come in. So I just don't know what to expect right now."
American (3-2) finished third in the State Farm Illini Classic last weekend after defeating Miami (Ohio) in four games and falling to No. 2 Southern California. Temple (2-4) completed a 2-1 road trip at the Wisconsin-Green Bay Amerihost Classic, beating host Wisconsin-Green Bay and North Dakota State and losing to Indiana-Purdue, Fort Wayne. Albany took a second-place finish last weekend in the Delaware Tournament. The Great Danes went 2-1, sweeping both New Mexico and George Washington, but were routed by host Delaware, 3-1.
Arizona is 3-0 in the all-time series against American and swept the Eagles at McKale Center in the teams' last meeting, Sept. 13, 2003. This tournament will be the first time Arizona has ever faced Albany and Temple.
In last weekend's tournament opener against unranked Nicholls State, the Wildcats were plagued by a lack of intensity and poor execution – a problem that Rubio hopes to have conquered.
"The hope is (concentration and execution) is not a problem," Rubio said. "The hope is that we're in a position where we execute our side of the net and not worry about who's on the other side of the net. But that's always a struggle against teams where you know you have to play well to win."
But concentration may be the least of the Wildcats' worries as injury and illness continue to haunt the team.
Sophomore Meghan Cumpston will join Glass on the list of non-traveling Wildcats. Cumpston is suffering from severe nausea, headaches and fatigue.
"Meghan is really sick. Jennifer (Abernathy) didn't even practice because of her shin splints, but she'll travel though," Rubio said. "So I know that there's going to be enough other problems, injury-wise, that we can't take anything for granted. We need to make sure we take care of things. The nice thing though, fortunately, is that Stephanie (Butkus) has been healthy as a horse, knock on wood. And we need to make sure that we are getting better."
Although the Wildcats continue to play through injuries, team confidence is starting to rise.
"It definitely is (high)," said junior outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy, who ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in kills and ninth in points. "Even with everybody hurt, we're never sure what's going to go on and what type of lineup we're going to have. I think everybody is proud of how we're doing and everybody is confident."
"I think we feel pretty good about what's happened (this past tournament)," Rubio agreed. "I think confidence is a fleeting thing. You lose a couple of matches, and all of a sudden you start second-guessing yourself. Doubt creeps in. You certainly would rather be on the winning side of being confident."
Despite the inconsistent lineup, Arizona has still been able to produce, as three different Wildcats have recorded three double-doubles on the season - Abernathy and sophomores Cumpston and Stephanie Butkus. Junior Bre Ladd has also earned one.
- Brett Fera contributed to this report.