UA volleyball opens Pac play

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

If you're looking for proof on how tough it is for a volleyball team to compete in the Pacific 10 Conference, you don't have to look very far.

This week's Tachikara/AVCA Top 25 volleyball poll places seven count 'em, seven Pac-10 teams among the best in the country, including Arizona (4-1) at No. 17 and its opponent this weekend, Oregon State (8-1), at No. 20.

But even with its home opener against No. 4 UCLA looming next weekend, the temptation to look past the Oregon schools is ignored by the Wildcats, if for no other reason than they are Pac-10 schools.

"I think we're all, including the players, pretty tuned in on what we need to do this weekend," Rubio said. "Both teams have been doing very well in the non-conference. Oregon State is ranked 20th right now, and we're ranked 17th. So we know we have to play well, we have to be well-prepared."

This weekend marks the Pac-10 opener for the team, which plays Oregon State tonight in Corvallis and Saturday evening in Eugene against Oregon (6-2). It is also the opening of conference play for both hosts.

With the pressure of performing in, what Rubio deems, "the toughest conference in the country," one might assume that the difference in quality of non-conference and conference opponents might warrant a different approach to preparation. Not Rubio.

"The preparation really isn't too much different from any match that we play," Rubio explained. "It's a little bit different in terms of what's at stake, but in terms of how we prepare and what we're doing at practice, it's really no different than what we've been doing since the beginning of the year."

Last season, the Beavers swept the Wildcats, with both matches going a full five games. On the other hand, Arizona swept Oregon, winning both matches in straight games. Such is the unpredictability of the conference, and the teams have to be wary of the unexpected.

"The teams that we'll be playing will be much more competitive," Rubio said. "I think all the Pac-10 teams are playing schools that they can get 'W's' so they can get a good winning percentage before they go into the Pac-10, because once you get into the Pac-10 you never know what's going to happen."

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