By Arlie Rahn
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The Arizona women's volleyball team will face its toughest test this year when it travels to Los Angeles this weekend. The Wildcats will encounter the second and third place teams in the conference, No. 3 UCLA and No. 11 Southern Cal.
Arizona fell victim to UCLA in five games earlier this season in Tucson. In the match, the Bruins relied on the strong arm of player of the year candidate Annett Buckner. She has been on a tear for the last week and is looking to continue her success against the Wildcats this season. On Sept. 23, she victimized the Wildcats by hammering 25 kills, recording a .380 attacking percentage and serving a career-high four aces.
"Annett is easily the hardest hitter on the team," UCLA coach Andy Banachowski said. "She is not too vocal, but instead leads by example."
But Buckner is not the only weapon on this powerful UCLA team. With outside hitter Jenny Johnson, middle blocker Alyson Randick and setter Kelly Flannigan, the Bruins have an effective, balanced attack. In the USC game last weekend, Randick hit .522, Johnson notched 27 kills and Flannigan provided a career-high 69 assists.
"We can't just key on Annett Buckner because UCLA has five other people that can hurt us," UA coach David Rubio said. "We have to prepare for each player."
Arizona is on the other side of the fence against USC. The Wildcats defeated the Trojans earlier in the season 3-1. But this Trojan team has vastly improved since
the Wildcats last faced them.
"Our core group of Meika Wagner, Laurie Yust, Monika Cavaliere and Kelly Kuebler have really picked up their play since we faced Arizona," USC assistant coach Nancy Hillman said.
These four were a major reason that the Trojans almost upset the Bruins last Wednesday. Kuebler, Yust and Wagner combined for 48 kills and hit nearly .300, and Cavaliere added 64 assists and 13 digs.
The addition of freshman Jeanne Vetter to the lineup has filled a deficiency that USC had at outside hitter. Her balanced play was evident in the UCLA game by her seven kills, two aces and 15 digs.
"With the addition of Jeanne Vetter to their lineup, USC has made their complexion a little stronger," Rubio said. "I'm not sure how they are going to perform."
The three main weapons for Arizona have continued their spectacular play over the weekend. Rita Johnson, Barb Bell and Melissa Ferris only averaged 23 kills per match this weekend but hit .290. The potential for these three players to control the game concerns Banachowski.
"The explosive ability of the two outside hitters and Charita Johnson's quickness are things that we will have to focus on," Banachowski said. "I was very impressed with the way they came out last time."
Rubio feels this will be a pivotal weekend for the Wildcats.
"This is an important weekend for our team," Rubio said. "I am hoping for a split but if we play to our ability we could surprise some people."
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