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Volleyball: Cats reach for .500 against Oregon

EVAN CARAVELLI/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA freshman Dominique Lamb spikes the ball against Arizona State in McKale Center earlier this season.
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 4, 2004
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Rarely is a losing conference record synonymous with a top-25 national ranking.

The No. 22 Arizona volleyball team (13-8, 5-6 Pac-10) is an exception to the rule. After an 0-4 conference start, the squad has never had an overall winning Pacific 10 Conference record this season, but has also retained its national standing every week.

"Last year was the same way," said UA head coach Dave Rubio of the team's conference record. "It's the (record) at the end of the season that matters, versus in the middle of the season. So I'm not too concerned about what our record is right now. I'm just concerned about making our players better every week."

The Wildcats will have the opportunity to even out their record tonight as they host Oregon at 7 p.m. at McKale Center.

Arizona is coming off one of its most important wins of the season on Saturday, upsetting then-No. 12 UCLA in three games (30-28, 30-21, 30-28) at Pauley Pavilion for the third consecutive year. The day before, the Wildcats lost a four-game battle to No. 5 USC (20-30, 27-30, 32-30, 17-30).

The Ducks (9-12, 1-10) were not as successful in their weekend matches, losing in five games to Washington State on Friday before being swept by No. 1 Washington on Saturday. The losses extend the team's losing streak to eight games.

"You have to take care of business at home, even though both Oregon (schools) don't have a great record," Rubio said. "We know we can't relax at all and look past anybody. We're not good enough to look past anybody at this point."

"You can't afford to take any teams in the Pac-10 lightly," agreed junior middle blocker Bre Ladd, who ranks 10th in the conference in blocks. "Neither one of those schools (Oregon and Oregon State) are schools to look over because they're still both very talented. Every opportunity that we get to play is just an opportunity for us to get better and to achieve our goal and not to make up anything in the past.

"We've been improving so much," she said. "We've been having two, two-and-a-half solid weeks of great practices. We're just on the upswing. We're starting to peak so it's really exciting."

Oregon is led by Lauren Westendorf, who averages 5.06 kills per game. Libero Katie O'Neil maintains a team-high 4.93 digs per game, and setter Heather Madison averages 10.56 assists per game.

For Arizona, senior middle blocker Jolene Killough has had three consecutive error-free matches. She had nine kills on 10 attempts (.900 hitting percentage) against Arizona State, 11 kills on 16 attempts (.688) at USC and eight kills on 15 attempts (.533) at UCLA. In the last three games, Killough is hitting .634 with 28 kills in 41 attempts with no errors.

Junior outside hitter Kim Glass has more than made up for her two-week absence at the beginning of the season because of a shoulder injury. Glass leads the team with 4.57 kills, 2.97 digs and 0.84 blocks per game. Sophomore setter Stephanie Butkus averages 12.10 assists per game, and senior libero Kelli Mulvany boasts 3.26 digs per game.

After a difficult start in the Pac-10, Rubio said the team has come together over the last couple of weeks.

"I do think that we're in the best place that we've been all year long," he said. "We continue to get better. I still think that we have a lot of improvement to make though. I think we're still capable of making improvements in the team, both individually and as a team."

Arizona edges Oregon in the all-time series record 32-8, including 11 consecutive victories. The two squads last met on Oct. 9, when the Wildcats swept the Ducks in Eugene, Ore.

Action continues for Arizona tomorrow at 7 p.m. as it hosts Oregon State.

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