By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
16-14, 15-4, 15-5.
These three scores are enough to make any Arizona women's volleyball fan cringe. Thursday night the No. 17 Wildcats (9-7 overall, 5-6 in the Pacific 10 Conference) will try to avenge their Sept. 30 three-game thrashing by 16th-ranked Arizona State (10-8, 5-6) in a rematch at McKale Center.
And although the outcome was an ASU victory, the Wildcats were not beaten by the Sun Devils. They were beaten by themselves. Arizona had an uncharacteristic 21 service errors and seven ball-handling errors. Yet Arizona still out-hit ASU .221 to .164.
"As a coaching staff, we pretty much threw out our last match against ASU," said UA assistant coach Liz Towne. "We rely a lot on our serving and blocking, and when we broke down serving we lost some of our confidence."
Melissa Ferris was one of the few bright spots for the Wildcats. She had a match-high 15 kills to go along with her .310 hitting percentage. But for Arizona to be successful against the Sun Devils it will need a total team effort from other key players. And this is what worries ASU coach Patti Snyder.
"We have to be able to stop their left side attack," Snyder said. "We need to neutralize their two outside hitters and still contain the middle."
Barb Bell has been a consistent force from the outside for the Wildcats and is leading the team with 257 kills (4.50 per game) and digs with 171 (3 per game). Rita Johnson has been giving opposing coaches something to think about in the middle with her 161 kills and 1.35 blocks per game. Arizona's dynamic duo of setters, freshman Michaela Ebben and junior Laura Bartsch, have been very successful. They are averaging 6.2 and 12.2 assists per game
respectively. These players will be the key to whether Arizona leaves McKale 6-6 or 5-7 in the conference.
Another major test for the Wildcats will be containing senior co-captain Leanne Schuster and junior Christine Garner. Schuster is second on the team in kills with 212 and has a team-high 229 digs. Garner is leading the team with 303 kills (4.52 per game) while being keyed on by opposing teams. These two, especially Schuster, concern UA coach David Rubio.
"Leanne Schuster and Christine Garner are both great players, but Schuster is the heart and soul of their team," Rubio said.
With both teams coming off a disappointing weekend, Arizona and ASU are in the same position. The two are tied for sixth place with a 5-6 conference record. With that in mind, this game will be a major key to deciding the rest of the season for both teams.
"ASU and us are going through the same process," Rubio said. "We are both coming off a successful season, but are not quite where we want to be record wise. This is an important game for both of us."
And with the importance of this game in mind, the home crowd should be a major factor for the Wildcats. This match has been designated as Break the Record Night. Arizona is hoping to eclipse the 3,594 attendance that came to the season-opener against UCLA by charging only $1 for admission.
In addition to the low admission price, ESPN has announced that they will televise the game for a tape-delayed national broadcast set to air Wed., Nov. 2 at 8:30 p.m. Tucson time.
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