The No. 18 Arizona volleyball team opens the 2006 season with the Four Points Sheraton Arizona Invitational this Friday-Saturday, Aug. 25-26, in McKale Center. The complete tournament schedule is as follows:
Aug. 25 Fri. Siena vs. Arizona 10 a.m.
Northern Colorado vs. San Francisco 12:30 p.m.
Northern Colorado vs. Arizona 7 p.m.
Aug. 26 Sat. Siena vs. San Francisco 10 a.m.
Northern Colorado vs. Siena 4:30 p.m.
San Francisco vs. Arizona 7 p.m.
A QUICK LOOK AT ARIZONA:
The Wildcats return four starters from last year’s squad that made the program’s 10th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Included in that group are All-Pac-10 honorable mention selections Kristina Baum and Dominique Lamb, and All-Pac-10 Freshman honorable mention pick Brittany Leonard. Also returning at setter are Stephanie Butkus and Amy Dyck, both of whom started at different times last season. Arizona also welcomes seven newcomers to the team, including Whitney Dosty, the fourth-ranked recruit in the nation.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION:
Siena - The Saints, the preseason favorite to repeat as champions in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), return five starters from last year’s team. Among the returning players is junior outside hitter Nadiege Honore, who was named Preseason Player of the Year. She was joined on the Preseason All-MAAC Team by teammates Christie Gustafson and April London.
Siena went 20-12 last season, including a 7-2 mark in MAAC play. The Saints made the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in a decade, falling to eventual national champion Washington in the first round.
Northern Colorado - Northern Colorado, playing in its first season in the Big Sky Conference, finished the 2005 season with a 14-16 record and finished fourth at the NCAA Division I Independent Championship. The 2006 team returns four starters, including Division I Independent first team honoree Lizzy Rhoades and Division I Independent Co-Defensive Player of the Year Abby Mayne.
San Francisco - The Dons return six starters from last year’s squad that turned in the second-best season in program history, going 18-13 overall and 4-10 in West Coast Conference play. San Francisco earned votes in the 2006 AVCA Preseason Poll for the first time in program history.
Siena - This is the first-ever meeting between Arizona and the Saints.
Northern Colorado - Arizona leads the all-time series with the Bears 2-0. The last time the two teams met, on Oct. 28, 1978, the Wildcats won 3-1 in Greeley, Colo.
San Francisco - Arizona leads the all-time series with the Dons 1-0. The two teams’ only meeting came on Sept. 12, 1997, with Arizona sweeping in Tucson.
Arizona is 21-8 all-time in season openers since 1977. This is the second year in a row that the Wildcats have opened the season at McKale. Last year, Arizona swept Winthrop in its season opener on Sept. 1.
BIG SHOES TO FILL:
With the graduation of all-time kills leader and three-time All-American Kim Glass, third-team All-American Jennifer Abernathy and four-time All-Pac-10 selection Bre Ladd, Arizona lost a considerable amount of not only its offense, but its defense, as well. The trio accounted for 71 percent of last year’s service aces, 70 percent of the kills and 46 percent of the team’s digs.
LEONARD AT LIBERO:
As a freshman last season, Brittany Leonard set the Arizona single season record for digs per game at 3.70. The California native reached double-digit digs 19 times and had 20 or more digs on three occasions.
RECRUITING CLASS RANKED FOURTH:
Arizona’s 2006 freshman class was selected as the fourth-best in the country by PrepVolleyball.com. The group is comprised of seven players - Jayme Allen (San Diego, Calif.), Kara Bauman (Tucson, Ariz.), Whitney Dosty (Tucson, Ariz.), Ashley Hamilton (Alpine, Utah), Makenzie Mullin (Overland Park, Kan.), Jacy Norton (Carlsbad, Calif.) and Alanna Resch (Solana Beach, Calif.) - and will attempt to fill the holes left by the departure of a class that four years ago was rated No. 1 nationally.
Arizona is ranked No. 18 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA)/College Sports Television (CSTV) Preseason Coaches Poll. The Wildcats are one of six Pac-10 schools ranked in the Top 25. Arizona has been ranked in the Top 25 in 118 of the last 127 polls, dating back to the 1998 season. The nine-week lapse occurred during the 2003 season.
Arizona was picked to finish sixth in the Pac-10 in a preseason vote of the league’s 10 head coaches, receiving 48 points. Stanford and UCLA, both of which Arizona swept last season, were picked to finish first and second, respectively. The Cardinal received eight first-place votes and 89 total points, while the Bruins tallied two first-place votes and 79 points. Defending national champion Washington was picked to finish third with 76 points. California and USC followed in fourth and fifth place with 64 and 62 points, respectively. Rounding out the poll were Oregon State (41), Oregon (32), Arizona State (30) and Washington State (19). The coaches have correctly picked the Pac-10 champion in 10 of the previous 17 polls. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team.
As always, Arizona faces a tough schedule this season. The Wildcats play 14 matches against nine teams that competed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats will also face six teams (California, Louisville, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington) that are ranked in the Top 25 in the preseason AVCA/CSTV Coaches Poll. The Pac-10 schedule will again be difficult as the conference continues to show its dominance. Last year, six Pac-10 teams competed in the NCAA Tournament and all six advanced to the second round. Three teams advanced to the Sweet 16, two to the Elite Eight and Washington won the national championship.
With Washington capturing the NCAA title last season, the Pac-10 has now won five consecutive national championships (Washington in 2005, Stanford in 2004 and 2001, USC in 2003 and 2002), including the last three by three different teams. What’s more, Pac-10 teams have claimed 13 of the sport’s 25 NCAA championships.
Head Coach Dave Rubio boasts a 278-141 record (.663) in his 14 seasons at the helm of the Wildcat program. Last season, he not only became the winningest coach in Arizona history, but he notched his 400th career victory in the team’s win over Ohio in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. In 19 years as a head coach, Rubio has a 400-207 (.659) record.
Senior Kristina Baum is 25 kills away from 600, while senior Stephanie Butkus is 25 assists shy of 2800 and 30 kills away from 200. Junior Amy Dyck is 27 assists away from 1400 and 11 kills shy of 100 on her career. Junior Dominique Lamb is one block away from 200 on her career.
PAC-10 ACTIVE LEADERS:
Senior Kristina Baum ranks fifth among active players in the Pac-10 in blocks, while senior Stephanie Butkus is third in assists. Junior Amy Dyck, meanwhile, is seventh in assists.
Arizona travels to Louisville, Ky., for the Courtyard by Marriott Airport East Classic, next Friday-Saturday, Sept. 1-2, where it will face Tennessee Tech, Dayton and No. 12 Louisville.