Volleyball opens tournament play Friday against UC Irvine

By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 29, 2004

It was the tale of two teams as the No. 21 Arizona volleyball team (18-10, 10-8 Pac-10) split its final regular season matches this weekend at McKale Center. The Wildcats swept No. 14 California on Friday before being swept at the hands of No. 7 Stanford Saturday night.

With the split, Arizona advances to the NCAA tournament for the ninth consecutive year, facing off against UC Irvine on either Thursday or Friday in San Diego.

Arizona now heads to San Diego to take on UC Irvine (18-10, 11-7 Big West) in the first round of the NCAA tournament on either Thursday or Friday. The Anteaters were swept in their final regular season match on Friday by Notre Dame (30-23, 30-28, 30-27). Arizona received one of 33 at-large bids and will not have the opportunity to host a tournament round.

"They have a terrific coach, Charlie Brande, who has been in the business for a long time," said Rubio. "They're a solid team, I don't know too much about them. The kids that they get are really good volleyball players. They are not going to be great, phenomenal athletes but they know the game and they're going to be tactically prepared. Charlie does a terrific job. We're going to have to make sure that we're ready to go whenever the regional is.

"I think it's a good draw for us," he added. "If you can't play at home, let's play in California, especially in San Diego. I think it's a little ironic that we opened up the season with San Diego State and we're playing the first round in the postseason in San Diego. The only drawback when you get to the round of 16, I think we have to play USC."

"I think everybody's excited about that, considering we have so many people from Southern California," Ladd said. "So we'll have a good following out there and it's never bad if you get to play in San Diego."

Should Arizona beat UCI, it will face off against the winner of the San Diego, New Mexico State game. Second-round action will also take place on San Diego's home court, Jenny Craig Pavilion. The Wildcats were swept by the Toreros - who are seeded ninth in the tournament - on Sept. 4.

Arizona lost to Wisconsin in four games in the first round of the tournament last season.

In addition to the final score (30-16, 33-31, 30-27), Stanford led Arizona in hitting percentage (.269 to .165), blocks (11 to 5) and service errors (3 to 8) in the teams' final regular season match.

Junior middle blocker Bre Ladd recorded 12 kills on .409 hitting, in addition to three blocks, and fellow junior Jennifer Abernathy collected 13 kills on .320 hitting. Junior outside hitter Kim Glass struggled in the match, as she had only nine kills and 11 errors for a hitting percentage of -.051.

"I don't think anyone played great or anyone played poorly," said UA head coach Dave Rubio. "I thought it was a pretty good match all the way around for us, we just didn't play well enough at the end to win."

"If anything, I told them they should be disappointed in how we played and learn from that and insist our improvement in that area," he added. "We haven't really had to deal with that concept in a while. It's been more physical skills and not so much the mental part of the game."

The third game was back and forth initially before Arizona built a six-point lead at 19-13, forcing a Stanford time out. Later in the frame, the Wildcats watched the Cardinal use a 10-0 scoring drive to erase a seven-point Arizona lead at 27-20.

Arizona held significant leads at 17-11 and 22-17 in the second match before the Cardinal took advantage of 8-0 scoring drive to take the lead at 23-25. The Wildcats would rally back with their own 5-1 run to make it a 29-28 game. The game was knotted at 29, 30 and 31 before an attack error by Glass and a Njideka Nnamani kill resulted in the Cardinal win.

Stanford won the first match without much of a fight and held Arizona to a .085 hitting percentage with eight errors against 10 kills.

The Wildcats rewrote the record books in their sweep over No. 14 California (30-27, 30-25, 30-20) Friday night at McKale Center.

"I told the players it looks just like practice to me," Rubio said. "I think it all starts with serving. We served well today. California is a great passing team and I really felt like we did a nice job of taking them out of their system. I feel like we're real steady in our serve receive and that allows to be better from a side-out standpoint. Tonight was our night, we played well."

Glass set the tone with 22 kills on the night, moving into third place all-time and surpassing Lisa Rutledge, who recorded 1,478 kills as a Wildcat. Glass also contributed to the Wildcat defense and serving, adding five digs, two blocks and a match-high three service aces.

Mulvany set her own records and dished out a match-high 16 digs, which places her second all-time at Arizona with 1,612 career digs. Ladd notched 10 kills and four blocks while Butkus added 43 assists and nine digs.

"It suddenly became easy, everything slowed down tonight," Ladd said. "It was very relaxed. It was almost like we were scrimmaging. There was no sense of panic."