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Volleyball treks to chilly Utah first round of NCAA Tourney

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy tries to return a serve during Arizona's match against Southern California on Nov. 18 in McKale Center. The Wildcats play Utah State tonight at 8 in Salt Lake City for the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, December 2, 2005
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With any luck, the No. 6 Arizona volleyball team grew accustomed to chilly temperatures from the cold snap that hit Tucson this week.

The Wildcats are going to experience more of the same when they travel to Salt Lake City to take on Utah State tonight at 8 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"All the people on my team, especially those from Arizona, pretty much freak out when we go anywhere cold," said senior middle blocker Angie Ayers. "But to them, cold is cold, no matter if it's 20 degrees or 50 degrees. There's people on my team that think 60 degrees is scarf time."

Arizona (22-5, 14-4 Pacific 10 Conference) earned a program-best No. 4 seed while finishing tied for second in the Pac-10 with Stanford.

The Wildcats' conference record marks Arizona's best since 2001, when the team advanced to the Final Four.

The Aggies (21-12) are not the typical first-round team and comprise arguably the most competitive opponent facing the top four overall seeds, said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio.

Top-seeded Nebraska meets Alabama A&M, while No. 2 seed Penn State takes on Binghamton. No. 3 seed and Pac-10 champion Washington plays Siena.

"If you took a look at the other seeds, Utah State would blow away every single one of the other opponents' teams," Rubio said. "They're certainly not a patsy, and they are very well-coached by Burt Fuller. They have a history of success, so we have to be ready to play (tonight)."

The Aggies finished second in the Western Athletic Conference after losing to No. 7 seed Hawaii in the WAC tournament championship match Saturday. USU is 8-3 in its last 11 matches.

Arizona will look to senior outside hitter and four-time All-Pac-10 selection Kim Glass to pace the Wildcats' offense.

Glass maintains conference highs in both kills per game (5.78) and points per game (6.66) in Pac-10 matches.

Fellow senior outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy averages 4.5 kills and 3.4 digs per game, while sophomore setter Amy Dyck was second in the Pac-10 in assists per game with 13.18 in conference matches.

On the season, Arizona is out-hitting its opponents .264 to .175 and bettering them in kills, assists, digs and blocks.

Arizona is 10-5 against other teams in the 2005 Tournament field. This year marks the Wildcats' 10th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 21st overall.

Should Arizona defeat the Aggies, the Wildcats would take on the winner of the Utah-Loyola Marymount match tomorrow at 7 p.m.

The last time the Wildcats and the Utes (22-8) met, on Nov. 30, 2002, Arizona fell in four games at Crimson Court.

"My freshman year we played Utah, and I remember that they are a very competitive team," said senior middle blocker Bre Ladd. "They're very good. We're not taking this lightly just because it's the first and second round. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day."

In their last meeting, the Wildcats swept the Lions (19-10) in 1996 in McKale Center.

This is Utah's eighth straight appearance in the tournament and LMU's third consecutive trip.

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