By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Last weekend the UA women's volleyball team split a two-game series with the Washington schools. And although splitting on the road with two teams of Washington and Washington State's caliber is a respectable showing, the No. 16 Wildcats (8-4, 4-3) still dropped two spots from their 14th ranking last week in the AVCA/Tachikara poll.
In their loss to No. 20 Washington State, the Wildcats managed only a dismal hitting percentage of .084, with only Tamika Dennis hitting over .200. But instead of coming out and repeating the same performance against Washington, the Wildcats regrouped and played great, winning the match in four games. The Wildcats improved their hitting percentage to .292 and had four players in double figures in kills, with Melissa Ferris and Barb Bell leading the way with 18 kills each.
"After our loss on Friday night, we all came together and had a team meeting," UA coach David Rubio said. "This gave us a chance to air out our grievances and think of how we could improve. The next night we came out and played a great match even though we only had four hours of sleep due to our meeting and traveling."
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This weekend's matches include the No. 1 team in the nation, Stanford (13-0, 7-0) and the No. 9 team in the conference, Cal (3-11, 1-6). And with all of the hype of undefeated Stanford, it is easy to overlook the lesser-publicized Cal team. Although the Golden Bears have not had a great amount of success, they are improving. In their recent matchup with Stanford, they became only the third team to force Stanford to four games, the others being top ten teams Florida and UCLA.
Cal's major problem in its slow start has been youth. The Bears have nine freshmen on their team. But these players have begun to show that they belong in the Pacific 10 Conference. Freshman Jessica Dinaberg and Amy Yribarren are leading the way for the rest of the younger players. Dinaberg is second in both kills and digs with 140 and 161 respectively, and Yribarren is leading in assists with 320.
"With nine freshmen, we are a very young team and there is still a lot of teaching going on," said Cal assistant coach Devin Scruggs. "Our inexperience has hurt us a bit early in the season, but our team is consistently improving. And it is not like these players have just started volleyball, many of them played in some of the best juniors teams before they came here."
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Crowd support has not been lacking this year for the Wildcats. The 3,594 Arizona fans that passed through the turnstiles against UCLA set a McKale Center record for volleyball. The Wildcats have a chance to better that mark when they host top-ranked Stanford on Friday.
"Right now, this is an exciting time for U of A volleyball," Rubio said. "This weekend we get a chance to play the number one team in the nation and do something no one else has done, beat them. We feel that we match up very well with Stanford. The crowd will be in store for a great battle."
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