By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
It was a dark weekend for Arizona volleyball. Not only did the Wildcats lose to both UCLA and Southern Cal, but state rival Arizona State also was winless in L.A.
"I hoped to go in and at least get a split," said ASU coach Patti Snyder. "I would like to think that Arizona and us are just as good as the major California teams."
The two Arizona juggernauts will meet on Thursday in a rematch of the Sept. 30 sweep of the Wildcats in Tempe, when Arizona had 21 service errors. But the Wildcats are looking to put that game behind them.
"That was something that happened so long ago that we haven't really thought about it," UA coach David Rubio said.
And with both teams coming off disappointing weekends, this famous rivalry will be even more intense.
"Thursday's game is going to be very intense," Snyder said. "We're looking for the usual five-gamer."
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A major strength for the Wildcats this season has been the play of their two outstanding outside hitters. Barb Bell and Melissa Ferris have developed into two of the hardest hitters in the Pacific 10 Conference. They have 487 kills, averaging nearly nine kills per game.
"Both Barb and Melissa are very good attackers and give us nice stability in that position," Rubio said. "They can heat it up at anytime and give us some good firepower."
But these two spikers bring more than just kills to the floor. Bell and Ferris are one and two on the team in
digs and are among the top three in the solo block department.
But Ferris thinks their presence on the floor causes teams to leave holes in their defense.
"When you have two people who can consistently put the ball away, teams change the way they defense you," Ferris said. "For us, some teams block to the outside right when we pass the ball, and that opens up the middle for Rita (Johnson)."
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Last week, Arizona women's volleyball player Rita Johnson joined former Wildcat All-American Melissa McLinden as the only Wildcats to record over 1,000 kills and 100 solo blocks. Entering the Stanford game, Johnson had 991 kills and 104 solo blocks. She finished the match with a team-high 13 kills and the record.
This marks the second time Johnson has landed herself a spot in the record books this season. She had broken the conference record for solo blocks against Oregon State earlier this season.
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