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Volleyball: Cats head west to face UCLA, USC

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA junior outside hitter Kim Glass spikes the ball at visiting Washington during the Wildcats' victory Oct. 16 in McKale Center.
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 29, 2004
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The No. 24-ranked Arizona volleyball team will seek revenge this weekend as it travels to Southern California to take on No. 5 USC and No. 12 UCLA to open the second half of the Pacific 10 Conference season.

Action begins today at 7 p.m., as the Wildcats (12-7, 4-5 Pac-10) face reigning NCAA champion Southern California, and continues tomorrow night at 7 when Arizona faces UCLA.

The Trojans (12-3) swept both Oregon State and Oregon on the road last weekend to improve their record to seven wins and two losses in the Pac-10. The Bruins (13-5, 6-3) are also coming off of two consecutive victories as they swept the Ducks and managed to defeat the Beavers in five games.

In its previous two contests against Southern California and UCLA, Arizona came up short and lost to both teams. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats three games to one at McKale Center on Oct. 1 while the Trojans swept Arizona the following day.

Although these losses were just a month ago, UA head coach Dave Rubio believes that the Wildcats are now more prepared in the second meetings with both teams.

"I always feel like in the second round I have a better grasp on how we're going to attack (USC and UCLA)," Rubio said. "Even though we get film on the first round, seeing it up front and in person is a lot different. I have a much clearer picture on what our game plan is going to be against USC and UCLA."

"I think that in the beginning of the season, we were unsure of where we were going and what we were doing on the court," said sophomore opposite hitter Meghan Cumpston, who recorded her 150th career dig last Friday against Arizona State. "But now, we're comfortable. I think everything's going to work out well and we're going to be able to play our game against them. I think that we're in the top four or five teams in the country and that we can go all the way to the Final Four and we can definitely beat USC and UCLA."

Southern California is led by Keao Burdine, who averages 3.72 kills and 3.04 digs per game. Setters Allison Dillon and Kimi Freeburg share playing time and dish out 7 and 6.53 assists per game, respectively. For the Bruins, reigning Pac-10 Player of the Week Chrissie Zartman contributes a team-high 5.42 digs per game. Nana Meriwhether adds a league-high 1.7 blocks per game and Brynn Murphy leads the team with 3.11 kills per game.

Both squads seem to have the Wildcats' number, as Arizona is 15-43 all-time against USC and 14-43-1 against UCLA. When playing the teams on their home turf, Arizona is 5-22 against the Bruins and 5-21 versus the Trojans.

Despite the history between the two teams, Rubio said the Wildcats are closing in on a turnaround.

"We've had a couple of great weeks at practice," he said. "I just feel like we're really close to a breakthrough here. If we continue to play like we've been practicing, I know that eventually we're going to start beating some real good teams.

"Everything in the training and what I've experienced in the past has proven that we're a second-half club," Rubio added. "We start to play much better and we start to peak. Really we want to play our best volleyball this time year and at the end of the year.

The statistics support his statement. Halfway through the Pac-10 season, Arizona ranks sixth in the conference. The Wildcats have been victorious in four of their last five games, combining for a .297 hitting percentage. In the first four matches of conference play, Arizona only hit .150.

The team has also bettered its 2003 record as this year's squad has one more win and three sweeps, compared to two last season.

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