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Volleyball continues enigmatic ways in '04


Photo
CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
A junior outside hitter Kim Glass spikes a ball against Oregon earlier this season in McKale Center. Glass and senior middle blocker Jolene Killough were each named to the All-Pac-10 team this season. The honors were Glass' third and Killough's first.
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tueday, December 7, 2004
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After a rollercoaster season, it was only fitting the Arizona volleyball team ended its year on a similar note in making its ninth straight NCAA tournament appearance.

The Wildcats (19-11) came off one of their most commanding performances of the year in a sweep over UC Irvine in Friday's first round, only to see it all come to an end as they lost to the hands of No. 9 San Diego in a five-game heartbreaker the following day.

Arizona began the Pacific 10 Conference season with four consecutive losses before entering the wins column with a four-game victory over Oregon State on Oct. 8. The squad only dropped two games over the next eight contests to improve to a 7-6 conference mark, including a sweep over then-No. 12 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Oct. 30 for its first win over a ranked opponent in over a month.

The Wildcats also weathered their share of injuries in the early season, including the two-week loss of junior outside hitter Kim Glass to a shoulder injury. In addition, sophomore Meghan Cumpston and junior Jennifer Abernathy saw limited playing time at the beginning of the season, as Cumpston was plagued with nausea and fatigue and Abernathy suffered from shin splints.

Abernathy would persevere and be named Pac-10 Player of the Week for the week of Sept. 7-12, recording 50 kills with 22 errors on 111 attempts, in addition to 25 digs over that period.

"I think that it was two separate seasons for us," said UA head coach Dave Rubio. "You have the first half when we were riddled with injuries and had different lineups. Then in the second half we got healthy and made improvements and I had a good a coaching experience as I have had here. They bought into everything that I asked them to do. What was disappointing to me is that we played so well and just came up a little short."

Senior middle blocker Jolene Killough boasted a five-game errorless streak from Oct. 15 to Nov. 5, in which she recorded 49 kills on 72 attempts with no errors for a .681 hitting percentage. Killough ended the season ranked tenth nationally with a .400 clip and was also named to the All-Pacific-10 team, along with Glass.

Fellow senior and libero Kelli Mulvany climbed into second-place all-time at Arizona in digs with 1,174, leading the team in digs 17 times on the season. Fellow libero Cassidy Crum continued to be a defensive threat, playing in 29 matches over the course of the season and averaging 1.87 digs per game.

"I think all three (seniors) were (fundamental to the team)," Rubio said. "Kelli was just so phenomenal. I just can't think of what's it going to be like without Kelli around. Jo struggled mightily in the first half and really came on strong in the second half. Cassidy was so tough and really added some ball handling. All three players are really going to be missed next year but that's the reality of collegiate athletics - kids are going to graduate in four years."

This year's freshmen setter Amy Dyck and libero Krista Chin will continue to fight for playing time in 2005 and add depth to the Arizona lineup.

"The hope is that both (Dyck and Chin), including Enobong Ibok, who is a redshirt freshman, is going to make some sign of improvements in the spring and put themselves to get more playing time," Rubio said. "I think Amy can push (sophomore setter) Stephanie Butkus in the setting position. It depends on their commitment level and how hard they are willing to work."

Rubio has already signed two letters of intent for next season with Randy Goodenough and Brooke Buringrud.

"I think that (Goodenough) may put herself in a position to earn playing time," he said. "It's hard to tell before she gets here. (Goodenough) plays opposite. Brooke Buringrud is a left side hitter. Chances are she won't be able to beat out any of our lefts, but it will give us some depth."

Although the 2004 season was cut short, Rubio said he is confident of the dedication of his squad for next year.

"With the team last year, it was a struggle at the end of the year," he added. "We weren't very together at the end. Last year, there were players all over the map with their commitment level.

"This year there is such a strong determination and strength. We had a meeting (Monday) and I can just tell how committed this group is. That's the thing that really strikes me. I haven't sent this level of commitment and readiness to go out and do what (is necessary) to be successful at the level they can achieve. Right now they know what need to do."



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