By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 22, 2004
Unfortunately for the No. 23 Arizona volleyball team, the similarities between it and in-state rival ASU are anything but few and far between.
Although the Wildcats boast a national ranking, Arizona (11-7) and Arizona State (8-9) hold identical Pacific 10 Conference records at three wins and five losses.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Both schools defeated Washington State last weekend, but came out on the losing end against top-ranked Washington, while ASU is still licking its wounds after being swept by NAU (21-30, 22-30, 16-30) on Tuesday.
The Wildcats are 32-33 all-time against the Sun Devils, but have the edge when playing in McKale Center, leading the all-time record 16-2. The last time the two teams met, a year ago this week, the Wildcats swept the Sun Devils at home.
Arizona will have the opportunity to even the all-time series record, as the Wildcats take on the Sun Devils tonight at 7 in McKale Center.
Despite the likenesses between the two teams this season, UA head coach Dave Rubio said the Wildcats have been consistent over the last several years.
"I think that in the last five or six years, ASU has been going through a transition," he said. "They switched coaches two years ago, and it hasn't been as consistent, I think, as they would like it to be. For us, we've been pretty steady and consistent year in and year out for the last five or six, seven years.
"I think their program is solid and it's going to be solid," he added. "They're young and they're transitioning. That doesn't mean they can't beat us; that doesn't mean they're not going to be ready and beat us on our home gym."
Like Arizona, the Sun Devils have also had to alter their lineup over the course of the season.
"But they've had some injuries just like we've had," Rubio said. "They've had some players playing that they probably weren't counting on playing. So they're a little inexperienced at this point."
The Sun Devils are led by Nicole Morton, who maintains an average of 3.72 kills per game. Colette Meek has averaged a team-high 1.30 blocks per game and setter Rachel Mittelstaedt averages 10.11 assists per game.
But the biggest similarity between the two teams is the longstanding rivalry on both sides of the net.
"(The rivalry) is just kind of a given," said senior middle blocker Jolene Killough, who ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in hitting percentage. "I just look at them as another team. But it is ASU and you have that school rivalry. I don't really think about it. I think we're a good team but neither of us have a great record. So I think we're just going to have to go out and play."
"I think the incentive is just to win in the conference," Rubio added. "I think maybe (the rivalry) adds some incentive for some of the players. For me, until both programs are at the same level - where they're both playing at a really high level - I think then that might change. Right now, I think we're just trying to survive and to put ourselves in position to get into postseason play."