UA women want respect

By Arlie Rahn

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Nov. 7, 1993: The Arizona women's volleyball team was hosting No. 1 UCLA in its last home game of the season. A record-breaking 2,700 fans squeezed into McKale Center, and hoped to witness their heroes slay the mighty Bruins.

With the match tied at two games apiece, these two prize fighters entered the final round. Although UCLA jumped out to a 13-10 lead, Arizona would not give up. Through two kills, an ace, and a little bit of good fortune, the Wildcats won game five, 15-13.

"I was very excited for our players, especially the seniors," UA head coach David Rubio said. "It was great for them to see the program come full-circle. They went from 0-18 in the Pac-10 their freshman year, to beating the No. 1 team in the nation."

After last year's hard-fought battle, UCLA should respect this Arizona volleyball team. But to senior Rita Johnson, it doesn't seem that UCLA is giving Arizona the credit they deserve.

"Over the summer I had a chance to play with Jenny Johnson and Annett Buckner of UCLA," Johnson said. "They gave the impression that they thought our victory last year was just luck."

The Wildcats will face quite a challenge this weekend. Not only will they face No. 4 UCLA on Friday, but they will have to play No. 13 USC the next night.

What UCLA or USC may think of Arizona is no concern to Rubio, he just wants to make sure his team comes into the game in the right state of mind.

"In order for us to win," Rubio said, "we need to enter the game with a quiet sense of confidence, and keep our composure regardless of the situation."

In addition to their mindset, the Wildcats will have to find a way to control UCLA's Buckner and Meika Wagner of USC. Buckner is leading her team with 5.38 kills per game. Also, Buckner earned tournament MVP honors as UCLA won the Mizuno USA Cup last weekend. The Trojans won the Brigham Young Tournament last weekend, sweeping their host, No. 9 BYU. Wagner was named MVP.

The Wildcats, however, will have their own firepower to launch at these two Pac-10 juggernauts. Johnson, Barb Bell and Melissa Ferris are picking up right where they left off in 1993.

The Wildcats are entering this weekend's matchups with a confident attitude. And Rubio knows that the only way to keep improving the program is to show the other Pac-10 powerhouses that Arizona is a team that is here to stay.

"Right now, I know that we are not respected by some of the dominating teams in the Pac-10," Rubio said. "Teams like Stanford, USC and UCLA are not going to give us respect for winning one match in ten years. We have to go out and prove to them that we can consistently beat them."

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