NCAA's feature Pac-10

By Arlie Rahn

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Phase one is over, now it is time for the real season to begin. With the end of the regular season, all eyes have turned to the select group that will decide the fate of every hopeful Division I volleyball program. It is a time that can drive coaches crazy.

"Each year I speculate on where we'll be and who we'll play," said UA coach Dave Rubio. "And I am always wrong. It's basically a waiting game."

With the Pacific 10 Conference having seven teams currently in the top 25, they should fare well in the selection process. The top five teams are basically assured of spots in the tournament, but where the gray area comes in is with the two Washington schools.

"The strength of our conference this year is shown by a school like Washington," UCLA coach Andy Banachowski said. "They are .500 in the conference and still have a legitimate shot at the tournament."

With No. 25 Washington (15-12 overall, 9-9 in the Pac-10) being in the top 25, they would be considered automatic for the tournament if they were in any other conference. But that doesn't change Washington coach Bill Neville's outlook on the tournament.

"I think that we will get in the tournament," Neville said. "They only thing that hurts us is the fact that they like to consider regional balance. So with seven teams from the Pac-10 in the top 25, the committee has some decisions to make."

But the pride of the Pac-10 this year has been No. 2 Stanford (24-1, 17-1), a team that has performed on another level all season long. Even with their one loss, they are still viewed by many as the best team in the nation.

Stanford coach Don Shaw doesn't like to worry about the selection process, which is why he enjoys playing in Thanksgiving tournaments.

"I don't like taking time off," Shaw said. "Playing (during the break) gives us a chance to let some people who have not been playing that much get some experience for the upcoming tournament."

Said Neville: "I think that our team needs the rest because of illnesses and other nagging injuries. Even though teams like Stanford and UCLA might accomplish some things over the break, they have to worry about not working their kids too hard and getting some injuries due to fatigue."

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