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Volleyball prepares for last home games

By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 18, 2005
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In its final home games of the regular season, the No. 6 Arizona volleyball team will face a team it can't seem to beat and another team it can't seem to lose to.

Arizona will look to rewrite the past when it hosts No. 14 Southern California tonight at 6 in McKale Center and extend its winning ways against No. 16 UCLA on Senior Night tomorrow at 7.

The Wildcats (18-5, 10-4 Pacific 10 Conference) are 0-7 against the Women of Troy (14-8, 10-4) over the last four years, having not won since Dec. 7, 2001, in the NCAA Regional Finals in Los Angeles.

On the other side of the coin, Arizona is 6-1 against the Bruins (16-8, 8-6) over the last four years.

Some of Arizona's troubles against USC can be pinned on the Trojans being a powerhouse team in the Pac-10 over the last several years. USC won the National Championship in 2002 and 2003 and advanced to the Final Four last season.

"They've had three straight years of great teams," said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio. "Even though we were really good, we weren't quite good enough in the past."

Tonight's match carries added significance, as USC and Arizona share the same Pac-10 record and are tied for third place in the conference standings.

"(U)SC is terrific," Rubio said. "They're a good team. They're able to compete and contend with just about anybody. The hope is we're on our game and we're going to be able to provide a competitive environment for them, and I think we will."

Senior outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy said USC is Arizona's biggest rival, and that the Wildcats seem to make too many errors when they step onto the court with the Trojans.

"Even though there's this deep hatred that goes to USC, nothing ever clicks for us," she said. "Every time we play them, we never get the flow going."

If you go

USC at Arizona
6 p.m. today
McKale Center

Senior Night
UCLA at Arizona
7 p.m. tomorrow
McKale Center

The USC attack is led by Bibiana Candelas and Staci Venski, who average 4.59 and 4.29 kills per game, respectively.

Despite a handful of injuries, the Bruins took down previously undefeated Pac-10 leader Washington in five games on Saturday.

Rubio said he was slightly surprised to see UCLA beat the then-No. 2 Huskies.

"I didn't know if (UCLA) was complete enough to beat a team like Washington," he said. "It's just hard to tell in our conference. There's just so many good teams."

Rubio added that UCLA freshman setter Nellie Spicer is one of the best players at her position in the conference. She averages 12.53 assists per game.

"She really keeps them in the system and gives their hitters swings," Rubio said. "They're going to be very formidable."

Arizona defeated UCLA in four games on Oct. 21.

"I didn't think we played particularly well in that match," Rubio said. "We haven't been a great road team. We've been a very good home team."

Arizona boasts a 9-1 record in McKale but is 5-4 on the road this season.

"The last time we played them, they didn't really have a whole lot of offense coming from different positions," said senior middle blocker Bre Ladd. "There was really only one player that was actually doing anything against us. When they're all on, they're very good. I think we have more offense out of each position."

Tomorrow's match might be the last home game for seniors Angie Ayers, Kim Glass, Abernathy and Ladd, as Arizona does not know yet if it will be given an opportunity to host the first- or second-round matches of the NCAA Tournament in early December.

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