By Ron Parsons
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The Arizona women's volleyball team, swept by the Los Angeles schools last week, will be looking to get back to a winning record in Pacific 10 Conference play this weekend with a pair of matches against the Washington schools.
The 16th-ranked Wildcats (12-5 overall, 4-5 in the Pac-10) travel to Seattle tonight to face Washington at 7 at the Hec Edmunson Pavilion. Saturday, Arizona heads southeast to Pullman to play No. 5 Washington State at 7 p.m. at Bohler Gym.
The Huskies, who dropped out of the USA TODAY/AVCA Top 25 poll this week after losing a pair of matches to the Oregon schools, are 6-10 overall and 2-7 in conference play. Washington State, which swept Oregon and Oregon State last week, has lost just one match this season. The Cougars are 16-1 overall, 8-1 in the Pac-10.
Washington State is second in the conference, while Arizona is in sixth. The Huskies are in ninth place.
Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said his team will try to return to basics after a poor showing last week.
"We're trying to get back to some fundamental things," he said. "Passing, serving, defense and ball control are what we need to focus on."
Tonight, Arizona will also have to focus on Washington's "big three" Ÿ sophomore Makare Desilets, junior Angela Bransom and senior Dragana Djordjevic.
Desilets, a quick hitter in Washington's scheme, is second on the team with 187 kills and leads the Huskies in solo blocks (28) and digs (153). She also leads the Pac-10 in block average, with 1.52 per game.
"She's unbelievably physical. In fact, (Washington) is one of the most physical teams in the country," Rubio said.
Washington coach Bill Neville said Desilets "has been improving every match. She's getting better all the time."
Bransom, a swing hitter, was sidelined earlier in the season with a torn meniscus in her left knee and has played in only eight matches. But she has made the most of her limited playing time, hitting for a league-high 30 kills in a win over Southern Cal. She also has the Huskies' second-best hitting percentage, behind Desilets.
Neville said having Bransom back will be a lift to his team, but he added that he was unsure about her health.
"It takes awhile to get back from that kind of injury," Neville said. "She's ready to play, but in terms of timing and endurance, we'll have to see."
Washington's most dangerous player, Rubio said, is Djordjevic. She leads the team in kills with 264, and is sixth in the Pac-10 in kills-average with 4.4 per game.
"She's really steady, " Rubio said. "And when she's on fire, she's unstoppable."
Earlier this season, the Huskies pushed Arizona to five sets at McKale Center before the Wildcats were able to put the match away. UA leads the series 13-10.
Neville said containing Arizona's big guns Ÿ junior outside hitter Barb Bell and sophomores Carolyn Penfield and Stephanie Venne Ÿ will be key if the Huskies are to win.
"Arizona's been tough for us, to be sure," Neville said. "We need to get into long rallies and side out if we're going to win."
The Wildcats also have their work cut out for them in tomorrow's match against No. 5 Washington State. The Cougars' 16-1 start is the best in school history, and they have recorded five consecutive wins over top-20 teams.
"They're really on a roll. They're not overpowering, but they're very well balanced," Rubio said. "The biggest thing is we're going to have to play a good match just to be in it with them. We're just going to have to be steady and consistent to beat them."
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