Last week, after Arizona split its series with the Washington schools, women's volleyball coach David Rubio called the Pacific 10 Conference "brutal." UA's 1-2 conference record is a testament to that.
For the 13th-ranked Wildcats, it doesn't get any easier this weekend. Arizona (9-2) meets defending NCAA champions Stanford (8-2) tonight at 7 in Palo Alto, Calif. The Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the nation. Tomorrow, the Wildcats play California (5-4) in Berkeley.
Tonight's game will be televised live on Prime Sports.
"We're going to have to play at a very high level if we're going to have a shot at beating them," Rubio said. "They know it and we know it."
Stanford, 4-0 in conference play, beat No. 19 Southern Cal and No. 8 UCLA last week in Los Angeles. The Cardinal can boast of a long list of impressive players:
˜ Senior outside hitter/setter Cary Wendell, a first-team All-American last year, leads the team in hitting percentage (.337), kills per game (3.8), assists per game (8.3) and digs per game (3.3). Wendell was named national player of the year last season.
˜ Senior outside hitter Wendy Hromadka has 114 kills and 99 digs, both team highs.
˜ Senior outside hitter Marnie Triefenbach was a second team All-American in 1994, and sophomore setter/outside hitter Lisa Sharpley was a freshman All-American last year.
And as if Arizona needed any more players to worry about, tonight's match marks the return of 6-foot-2-inch outside hitter Kristin Folkl, yet another first-team All-American and last year's national freshman of the year.
Folkl recently came off a tour with the U.S. National Team, which posted a 14-1 record and won the Grand Prix Final Four over Brazil on Sept. 17. She is not expected to start tonight, but should see some action if the Cardinal is struggling.
"Kristin Folkl has just spent the last six months with the best players in the world," Rubio said. "That's the thing about Stanford Ÿ you've got All-Americans coming off the bench. It's a whole different ballgame."
Rubio said Arizona, led by junior outside hitter Barb Bell (192 kils, 107 digs), will need to do two things in order to win.
The first is to execute fundamentals such as serving and passing, and the second is to believe the team can win. Stanford leads the series 27-1, with the only loss coming two years ago in Tucson.
"We've got to believe that we're capable of beating them," Rubio said. "If we don't believe that, then we've lost already, as soon as we walk into the gym."
But Rubio said he is telling his team not to focus exclusively on the Stanford match. He said the California match is just as important, if not more so.
"Our focus is to beat California, and make sure we take care of business there," Rubio said. "The team understands that. They got the message."
Ÿ Ron Parsons
After two weeks off, the Arizona women's golf team is ready to get back into action.
The Wildcats are competing in the 17th-annual Dick McGuire Golf Invitational this weekend in Albuquerque, N.M., where they will attempt to improve on their sixth-place finish two weeks ago at the Rolex Fall Preview.
Yesterday's first round was cancelled due to rain. Tournament officials plan to play 36 holes today and the final 18 tomorrow.
The tournament will be played at the University of New Mexico Championship Course. The 54-hole course is 6,069 yards and a par 73.
Ending the Rolex Fall Preview with modest scores, Brenna Cepelak and Christina Tolerton had to requalify for spots on the traveling team.
Junior Kelly Heffer and senior Jeanne Krizman were the two players who competed for this week's squad.
"Because of some poor performances in Palm Springs, we had to have some qualifying play these last two weeks," UA assistant coach Tom Brill said. "It's good to have the team competing for spots. It's healthy competition, and we can only get better."
Last year the Wildcats finished eighth, shooting 918 combined. In her first collegiate tournament, Heather Graff tied for sixth at 221.
Going into only the second tournament of the year, Brill said he has high hopes for Graff.
"She's just so consistent," Brill said. "She doesn't beat herself on the golf course. She doesn't make dumb mistakes, which I think sets her aside from most of the collegiate players. We are looking for her to have a good tournament."
Included in the field of 18 are Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina and UCLA, which won the Rolex Fall Preview.
The Wildcats have their work cut out for them, but confidence and morale is high.
"I think we should finish in the top three if we play to our capabilities," Brill said.
Ÿ Jacinda Sweet
The Arizona men's and women's cross country teams face their toughest competition of the season this weekend at the Mountain West Classic in Missoula, Montana.
The eighth-ranked women's team, led by junior Viola Schaffer and freshman Amy Skieresz, hope to capture its third consecutive win of the year.
"Our women, along with Michigan and BYU, will be among the favorites," head coach Dave Murray said.
Skieresz and Emily Nay, a native of Montana, lead what Murray called one of the best freshmen classes ever at Arizona. Skieresz placed second in her first two collegiate races and was the top Wildcat finisher at the University of Illinois Invitational two weeks ago.
The Arizona men are looking to continue their winning ways, as the team faces the likes of Pacific 10 Conference rival Oregon, Brigham Young and last year's winner, Montana State. The Wildcats come in as the 10th-ranked team in the nation.
With the win in Illinois, the Arizona men have won five out of their last nine outings dating back to the beginning of last year.
"This will be our first real test to see how good we are," Murray said, "and where our program stands among the nation's elite."
Ÿ Jason A. Vrtis
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