The No. 6 Arizona volleyball team has picked the right time of year to play to its potential, with the postseason looming three weeks away.
But the Wildcats will be put to the test today, as Arizona (17-4, 9-3 Pacific 10 Conference) duals with No. 18 California (15-7, 8-5) at 8 p.m. in Berkeley, Calif.
The Wildcats battle with No. 4 Stanford (21-4, 10-3) tomorrow night at 8 in Palo Alto, Calif.
"The closer we get to the postseason, the matches start to weigh even more," said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio. "We have a shot at controlling our own destiny here. We all know what's at stake. ... If we happen to run the table and win out, then we're going to be considered for a top-four seed."
"The nice thing is it's going to prepare us for the postseason," he added. "You got to play back-to-back (matches) in the postseason, and you've got to play back-to-back against two very good teams."
The Golden Bears took Pac-10 leader No. 2 Washington to five games Friday but were unable to secure the win. Cal sits fifth in the Pac-10 behind Washington, Stanford, Arizona and Southern California.
Although the Wildcats defeated Cal in three games in McKale Center on Oct. 14, Rubio said both teams played far from exceptional.
"It's hard to know what to expect," he said. "I don't think when we played Cal down here that they played particularly well, and we certainly didn't play well at all. Cal so far has shown that they are a Jekyll-and-Hyde team."
Arizona will look to take advantage of some injuries that have recently plagued the Cardinal.
Stanford is without sophomore setter Bryn Kehoe, who averages a team-high 14.3 assists per game. She underwent surgery Nov. 1 to repair a broken right hand that she injured in practice the previous day.
Freshman outside hitter Cynthia Barboza is also out after having surgery on her left knee. Barboza contributed a team-high 4.5 kills per game.
"This year they have a couple injuries," Rubio said. "All that says is that they get an opportunity to put another All-American in that was sitting on the bench, and they get an opportunity to play. They're still going to be very good."
Arizona upset the then-No. 3 Cardinal in five games on Oct. 13.
"We have the confidence in the back of our minds that we can play with the best and beat the best, so that's always there," said junior setter Stephanie Butkus. "I think they're the underdog in this because of injuries they've suffered recently, and we beat them last time. They're going to come out gunning for us."
Arizona is 1-25 all-time against Stanford when playing on the road, with its only win coming in 2000.
"Stanford is one of the best programs in the history of volleyball," Rubio said. "I'm glad I got that one win."