By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Last year the No. 1 team in the nation came to McKale Center with a 33-game Pac-10 winning streak and a head of steam. In this memorable showdown with undefeated UCLA, the Arizona women's volleyball team knocked the Bruins off their high horse by beating them three games to two.
Another match with the No. 1 team for the No. 16 Wildcats (8-4 overall, 4-3 in the Pacific 10 Conference) is tonight at 7 p.m., and this year the culprit is Stanford. Although the situations are similar, UA senior Rita Johnson feels this year is different.
"We haven't really thought much about last year's match against UCLA," Johnson said. "This year is a totally different situation and we feel much more confident against Stanford. We know that we can win."
Stanford (13-0, 7-0) has steamrolled over every team it has faced (they have yet to go five games). This can be attributed to five starters returning from last years' 22-7 team. Junior Marnie Triefenbach, a returning starter, is coming off a spectacular week in which she was named AVCA Division I Player of the Week.
Even scarier is that three freshmen beat out some of these upperclassmen for starting spots. Freshman Kristin Folkl has already made an impact in the conference. She has won the Pac-10 player of the week award and is leading the team with 180 kills and a 4.9 kills per game average.
Said Stanford coach Don Shaw: "In addition to our returning players, we have three freshmen who have earned starting positions."
The Wildcats will square off with a young Cal team Saturday night at 7. With nine freshmen, the Golden Bears (3-11, 1-6) will be relying on the experience of junior captain Danielle Mashy. She is leading the team in kills with 161 and a 3.10 kills per game average. She has led Cal in kills in nearly half of its matches. But for the Bears to be successful this weekend, they will need consistent play from their many underclassmen.
"We have a very young team this year, and we need some leadership from our returning players," said Cal coach Dave DeGroot. "We try not to overly concentrate on the opposing team. We worry more about our own play."
This strategy almost paid off in the Golden Bears' matchup against Stanford when they took the Cardinal to four games.
The Wildcats are coming off of a split with the Washington schools with the Wildcats feeling confident about this weekend. One reason for this confidence is their balanced attack that they showed against Washington. They had four players with double digits in kills and three who hit over .400. With this in mind, opposing coaches are weary of Arizona's explosive potential.
"We expect Arizona to come out and play their best," Shaw said.
The Wildcats do not seem to be fazed by Stanford's lopsided victories thus far this season.
"We are very confident in facing the number one team," UA coach Dave Rubio said. "There is not much intimidation because we know that if we play well we can win. We feel that we match up well with them. I don't think that we are effected by Stanford's famous mystical aura."
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