UA middle blocker gives opponents fits

Tamika Dennis is no stranger to blocking shots. Whether on the basketball court or the volleyball floor, Dennis always makes her presence known. In her second season on the Arizona women's volleyball team, Dennis has established herself as one of the Wildcats' major threats in the middle.

Coming from Florin High School in Sacramento, Calif., Dennis has always been in the limelight. She was captain of the volleyball and basketball teams, earning league MVP honors, along with being an honor-roll student. With this in mind, Dennis had always wanted to attend a major conference school.

"My dream was to go a school in the Pac-10," Dennis said. "And although I didn't like volleyball at first, my high school coach told me to stick with it because I might be able to get a scholarship to a major college."

And being from California, Dennis had many Pacific 10 Conference offers from her home state. Yet she elected to join the rising Arizona program.

"I was recruited by USC and Arizona," Dennis said. "But the coaching staff and players at Arizona seemed to be more suited for me."

When she arrived at Arizona, however, one thing happened that Dennis did not count on homesickness.

"The transition from high school to college was difficult for Tamika at first," said UA coach David Rubio. "She wanted to go home nearly everyday."

But with the support of her coaches and teammates, Dennis became more comfortable with the new system. That season, Dennis did not play as much, but she showed the Wildcats' coaching staff she could become a major factor on the team. She sparked an Arizona rally in game four against Arizona State last year, recording three kills and three blocks to turn the tables on ASU and win the game.

Coming into the 1994 season, there was a great deal of speculation as to the starting lineup and Dennis' role. In light of her improvement over the summer, the Wildcat coaching staff knew they had to find a spot for her.

"Tamika has improved significantly this season," Rubio said. "She has become a much greater force in our attack and her blocking is really starting to come on. She has really asserted herself to become a fine player."

In just her sophomore campaign, Dennis is second on the team in total blocks with 73 (she is averaging over one per game), and is leading the team with a respectable .266 hitting percentage. She has been a tremendous asset to the Wildcats this year, having her best effort against Southern Cal and Washington. She had a career-high eight block assists in the UA's win over the Trojans, and tallied 10 kills and hit .643 at Washington.

Rubio attributed much of Dennis' newfound success to her positive work ethic. He said she has always been a fabulous athlete, but has gotten better at just working harder.

But Dennis and Rubio both know she needs to work on her backcourt skills.

"Right now I only play in the front row because we have other players like Heidi (Bomberger) that can do the job a little better than me," Dennis said. "I will continue to play only front row until I show that I can play in the back. I don't mind it because it gives me something to shoot for."

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