By Ron Parsons
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The Arizona volleyball team faces Arizona State tonight in a match has all the makings of a classic:
˜ Two undefeated, nationally ranked teams: Arizona (6-0) is ranked 14th by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, and ASU (6-0) is 13th.
˜ A bitter intrastate rivalry, with recent domination by one team (the Sun Devils have won 10 of the last 11 matches, dating to 1990).
˜ The Pacific 10 Conference opener for both schools and a "Break the Attendance Record Night" promotion.
The match begins at 7 p.m. at McKale Center.
Arizona coach David Rubio said he has not had to worry about getting his team motivated to play the Sun Devils.
"You don't really have to say too much to motivate your players to get up for this particular match," Rubio said. "They know what's at stake."
Both teams have had quick starts to their seasons, winning two tournaments apiece to remain undefeated. Last weekend, the Wildcats beat American University, New Orleans and South Carolina in the Arizona Classic tournament. Arizona State defeated Eastern Michigan, Arkansas and Texas Tech.
Senior setter Laura Bartsch, who had 106 assists over the weekend to move her into second place on UA's career assist list, said the team is prepared for its conference opener.
"We're ready anytime ASU comes down," said Bartsch, whose 3,150 career assists is second only to Heather McCormack's (1989-92) 3,517. "It's going to be a great game."
While Bartsch, named the most valuable player of last week's tournament, has been the starting point of the Arizona offense, junior outside hitter Barbara Bell has been the finisher.
Bell, still recovering from her fourth knee surgery, leads UA in several individual categories: kills (26 vs. UC-Santa Barbara), attacks (53 vs. UCSB) and digs (15 vs. South Carolina).
And like Bartsch, Bell has had little problem getting fired up for the match.
"It's awesome to open our conference season against ASU," Bell said. "We can't wait."
Bell said the Wildcats will have to be at the top of their game to beat ASU, who finished fourth in the Pac-10 last season, one place ahead of Arizona.
"They're going to be good, but I think that if we play our game on our side of the net and the crowd gets into it like they have been, we'll have a pretty good chance of winning," Bell said.
Arizona State has defeated the Wildcats 10 out of the past 11 matches Ÿ the only exception was in '93, when Arizona traveled to Tempe and beat the Sun Devils for a berth in the third round of the NCAA tournament, the first of two straight appearances in the Sweet Sixteen for the Wildcats.
For Rubio, neither ASU's recent domination nor its all-time record against UA (29-19) matters much for tonight's game.
"You always plan on winning and beating (ASU), but the reality is, everything comes in cycles," Rubio said. "For me, we just need to execute on our side of the net, and if we do I feel pretty confident that we'll come out on top."
Rubio said the play of Bell and Bartsch will be a key if the Wildcats are to win. In speaking of them, two words came up time and again: performance and composure. He said Bartsch, a senior, and Bell, a redshirt junior, are team leaders not only because of their playing ability but also because of their leadership.
"It's important they play well," Rubio said, "and I think they know that."
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