Volleyball aims to make leap against No. 3 Stanford

By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 13, 2005

No. 12 Cats gun for rare win over national champs

The No. 12 Arizona volleyball team hopes to rewrite the recent past as it takes on the No. 3 reigning national champion Stanford tonight at 7 in McKale Center.

The Cardinal (16-2, 5-1 Pacific 10 Conference) has defeated the Wildcats (12-2, 4-1) in five consecutive matches, with Arizona¡¯s last win coming Oct. 11, 2002, in five games at Midnight Madness in McKale.

"I think the whole entire game was a blur to me," said senior outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy, who was a freshman at the time. ¡°I was amazed that we won the whole night. It was just great coming back.¡±

Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said that despite Stanford's accolades, the Wildcats are capable of getting the win.

"For us, we're just going to try to play our game, and if it's good enough to beat Stanford, then we'll beat them," he said. "I think we're good enough to beat Stanford. It's just a matter of playing at a level that we're able to."

To do that, Arizona will have to defy some powerful statistics, as the Wildcats are 5-45 all-time against the Cardinal.

By the numbers:
Arizona vs. Stanford

  • Arizona is 5-45 all-time against Stanford
  • The Wildcats have not defeated Stanford since Oct. 11, 2002, when the Cats beat the Cardinal in
    five games at Midnight Madness
  • Arizona set a school and Pac-10
    volleyball attendance record of 9,141 in that victory
  • Arizona has recorded five straight match losses and only two wins against the Cardinal, including a pair of Stanford sweeps last season

    "I don¡¯t look at how long we've lost to Stanford," Rubio said. "I don't think we're intimidated by any of that. We know that we're one of the better teams in the conference, and every night, it could go either way."

    The Cardinal has three players who average more than four kills per game in freshman outside hitter Cynthia Barboza (4.64), freshman middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo (4.21) and junior outside hitter Kristin Richards (4.09).

    Stanford was handed its first Pac-10 loss of the season last weekend by No. 2 Washington, snapping its 15-match winning streak against the Huskies.

    At the 2002 Midnight Madness match against Stanford, Arizona set a new school and Pac-10 attendance record of 9,141, a mark that Rubio hopes to break tomorrow against No. 13 California (12-3, 5-1). The match begins at 7 p.m. and is followed by McKale Madness at 9 p.m.

    "The potential is certainly there especially against a great opponent like Cal," Rubio said. "The hope is that the community comes out, and they really want to see the basketball team and they want to see us play. It's a great opportunity to expose volleyball to people who would not normally come."

    Rubio said he considers his win against Stanford as one of the best athletic experiences he's had.

    "Even more so than going to the Final Four (in 2001), because you're in front of your home town and you're doing it here," he said. "It was tremendous for me personally."

    Abernathy said that having a large home crowd gives the team a distinct advantage, regardless of who's on the other side of the net.

    "It pulses energy onto the court," said Abernathy, who averages 4.16 kills and 3.2 digs per game. "It's great, because the more fans you have the louder it gets, and the more it shuts down the other team, too."

    Still, the Wildcats know what can happen when euphoria from a big win starts to cloud their play. After defeating Stanford three years ago, Arizona was swept by unranked Cal the next night.

    "It was totally demoralizing," said senior middle blocker Bre Ladd. "Just to beat (Stanford) was a great high. We put so much into that match, we felt like we had nothing left for the next night. It happens a lot in athletics.


      No. 3 Stanford at No. 12Arizona
    7p.m.  McKale Center

    "I think we've gotten better as a team now, knowing that no matter what happens the first night, you still have to play the second night," she said.

    From 1995 to 2001, Arizona held a 16-match winning streak over Cal. Since then, however, the Wildcats have gone 1-1 every season since.

    Rubio credits the change to better recruiting by the Golden Bears.

    "What Cal's done is brought a foreign player (Mia Jerkov) in. That rose their program to the next level," he said. "And even though she's left, they've been able to recruit the kind of players that keep them at that level."

    Rubio said that this may be the year in which Arizona returns to being one of the top teams in the Pac-10. In 2000, Arizona won the conference, and in 2001, the Wildcats advanced to the national semifinals.

    "It's going to be a process for us to get there," Rubio said. "It's going to happen at the end of the year versus right now. I think it's something that we're going to have to continue to build on week after week in practice. We just have to continue to get better so we can play at that elite level."

    He added that the conference has changed dramatically since 2000, as teams have quickly gone from pretenders to contenders.

    "From 2001 to 2002, it was a four team race -- UCLA, USC, Stanford and Arizona," Rubio said. "Those were the top four schools. In 2002 and 2003, Cal has gotten in there and same with Washington. So now it's a five-team race. It's very competitive."