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20070814 Arizona Volleyball 2007 Season Preview
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 08/14/2007
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Over the past 14 seasons, the Arizona volleyball program has achieved a level of success enjoyed by only a handful of elite collegiate volleyball programs around the nation.? After missing out on their first postseason berth in 11 years last season, the Wildcats are ready to get back to what has made the Arizona program a perennial contender ?C winning.

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Accumulating wins in 2007 will rest on a cast of players that possess a wealth of experience and athleticism, as the Wildcats return a deep lineup that accounted for 95 percent of the teamˇ?s kills and 75 percent of the teamˇ?s blocks a year ago.

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ˇ?We are returning a lot of players from last yearˇ?s team, and that is extremely important in terms of playing experience,ˇ± head coach Dave Rubio said.? ˇ?We took our bumps and got beat up a little last year, but you canˇ?t replace experience.? For the players who played in every match last year, that playing experience is really important in playing a part in our success this season.ˇ±

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Arizona will attempt to rebound from its first losing season in 14 years after finishing 13-17 in 2006 with a 4-14 mark in the Pac-10.? Despite the teamˇ?s break from its consistent winning ways, Arizona finished the season on a high note. The Wildcats played some of their best volleyball down the stretch, winning three of their last five matches, including an upset win over No. 24-ranked Oregon in McKale Center.

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ˇ?I think we are going to be significantly better than we were last year,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?We feel that our players are a year older and a year better in terms of skill development, and we are bringing in a terrific group of freshmen that I feel have the potential to be impact players on our team immediately.ˇ±

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ˇ?It is going to be an exciting year.? We are looking forward to everyone staying healthy, and performing to the best of their abilities the entire season,ˇ± Rubio said.

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Much of this seasonˇ?s excitement is derived from the unprecedented athleticism possessed by the players that assemble the Arizona roster.?


ˇ?We are going to have a very athletic team this season,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?If you measure jumping ability, speed, explosiveness, and those kinds of attributes, we would rank up there with the top teams in the nation.But you also need skill and experience to go with that athleticism to be a good team.ˇ±

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Arizonaˇ?s explosive athleticism showed last season, as the Wildcats ranked second in the Pac-10 and eighth in the nation with 3.42 blocks per game.

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ˇ?This season is going to be the type of year where we have a lot more knowns than unknowns,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?Last year, we had a lot of question marks and had to deal with a lot of injuries to some key players that really hurt us and hindered our success on the court.ˇ±

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ˇ?This year we will have a lot more confidence and our athleticism will be able to come out more and play a larger role in our success,ˇ± Rubio said.

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Much of the teamˇ?s confidence can be supported by the numbers put up by the core of returning players from a year ago. ?Arizona returns junior outside hitter Brooke Buringrud, who led the team with 3.52 kills per game and 0.35 service aces per game, the third-best mark in the Pac-10.? USA Junior National Team member Whitney Dosty returns after an All-Pac-10 Freshman Team season in which she posted 3.39 kills per game, as her career-high 29 kills against No. 24 Oregon last season was a Pac-10 season high among all conference players.?

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All-Pac-10 honorable mention Dominique Lamb returns for her senior season after registering 2.54 kills per game, a team-high .329 hitting percentage, which was sixth best in the Pac-10, and a team-best 1.55 blocks per game average, the second-best mark in the conference.? Junior libero Brittany Leonard comes back to the lineup after setting school records with 411 digs in a season, and a 3.84 dig per game average as a sophomore, and Jacy Norton returns after ranking fourth in the conference with 1.48 blocks per game, as she earned Pac-10 All-Freshman-Team honorable mention accolades.

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ˇ?Our returning players will provide us with a great deal of leadership and confidence,ˇ± Rubio said.? We have a lot of young players, but those players have gained valuable playing experience that will help them develop into high-impact competitors.ˇ±

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Arizona also brings in a talented group of incoming freshmen that will add to the teamˇ?s depth at every position. This yearˇ?s group of freshmen includes Tiffany Owens and Paige Weber, two top-50 recruits in the nation.

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ˇ?One of the keys to this season will be if the incoming freshmen can hold their own when playing against the caliber of teams we face on our schedule, especially in the Pac-10 Conference,ˇ± Rubio said.

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The following is a breakdown of the 2007 Arizona volleyball team.

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Setter

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The setting position for the Wildcats should help provide plenty of points at the net this season, as the teamˇ?s depth at that spot will be a strength.? Despite graduating Stephanie Butkus, who ended her career second all-time in Arizona history with 4,035 assists, the Wildcats will have many options at replacing last yearˇ?s starting setter.

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ˇ?We have a tremendous amount of depth at the setter position,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?We have some gifted athletes at that position that will make things happen on the offensive end for us.ˇ±

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Arizona returns versatile veteran Amy Dyck for her senior year, who registered 1,279 assists during her sophomore season and owns a career-average of 6.54 assists per game.

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ˇ?Amy Dyck has a lot of experience playing setter, especially from her sophomore season,ˇ± Rubio said. ?ˇ?She is a multitalented player with a solid all-around game who did a great job for us last season as a role player.ˇ±

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The Wildcats also add freshman setter Paige Weber from Indianapolis, Ind., who received the 2006 Andi Collins Award, recognizing the nationˇ?s best high school senior setter, and was named the 2006 Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Indiana.

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ˇ?Paige Weber is a freshman who is an outstanding setter,ˇ± Rubio said. ?ˇ?I think she is one of the best setters we have ever brought in, and can easily be compared to Dana Burkholder when she was a freshman here.ˇ±

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ˇ?Paigeˇ?s success this season will be determined on how quickly she can adjust to the college game and our system.? She is a flat-out winner, she knows how to win, she knows how to play hard, and she knows how to set.? She is the type of player you can win a championship with.? But she has a long ways to go being a freshman,ˇ± Rubio said.

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Outside Hitter

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Arizona brings back a lot of fire power at the outside hitter position, as the Wildcat returning players accounted for 95 percent of last yearˇ?s total attacks.

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Two players that will anchor the Arizona attack are Brooke Buringrud and Whitney Dosty, the teamˇ?s top-two leaders in kills from a year ago, and a duo that combined for 753 of the teamˇ?s 1550 total kills.

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Dosty returns after a stellar freshman season in which she averaged 3.39 kills per game, posted double-figures in kills on 22 different occasions, and was the only Wildcat to top the 20-kills in a match plateau.?

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ˇ?Whitney Dosty has played a full summer of volleyball and had a terrific spring,ˇ± Rubio said. ?ˇ?She is going to be more of a complete player than what she was last year.? Everything about her game has improved.? She will have more of a consistent dominating presence for us on the court.ˇ±

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Arizonaˇ?s team leader at the attack, Buringrud, will be back at it as a junior after leading the team as a sophomore in both kills (384), kills per game (3.52) and attempts (1,192).? Buringrud also tallied double-figures in kills in 24 matches, including 19 straight, and led the team in kills 14 times.

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ˇ?Brooke Buringrud had a great season last year,ˇ± Rubio said. ?ˇ?She was a full-time starter as a left-side hitter in the Pac-10 last season, and you canˇ?t replace the experience that she has.ˇ±

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The Wildcats also add freshman Tiffany Owens from San Bernardino, Calif., a top-50 rated recruit.

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ˇ?Tiffany Owens was one of the top left-side hitters in the nation last year coming out of high school,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?Sheˇ?s a player that is in the same category as a Kim Glass or Jennifer Abernathy.? She has a full understanding of the game and her position, and is a very tough player mentally.ˇ±

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One player who will see an increase in playing time at the outside hitter position after a solid freshman season is Alanna Resch.? As a freshman, Resch tallied 21 kills, 12 service aces and 77 digs, and will be looked upon to expand on her role as a versatile player in the rotation.

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ˇ?Alanna Resch is going to be a player wearing a lot of hats and filling a lot of holes for us,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?She is a very talented player and a great athlete.? If she can stay consistent and be a dependable player day-in and day-out, she will play a huge role for us.? We need her to step up and be ready to play as either a starter or a backup at the left-side hitter position and even at the libero position.ˇ±

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Opposite Hitter

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On the other side of the net, Arizona will return a consistent scoring threat in junior Randy Goodenough.? Last season, Goodenough was fourth on the team with 185 kills and a 2.13 kills per game average, and ranked third on the team in blocks per game at 0.98, while leading the team in kills twice and blocks three times.? She also totaled double-figures in kills in nine matches, including three straight to end the season.

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ˇ?This is Randy Goodenoughˇ?s time to shine for us on the court,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?Her next two years are going to be what drives us.? She is six-rotation player for us now.? She can pass, she can hit, she can defend, and has a chance to be very dominant with a great supporting cast.? She has put herself in the position to be a terrific player for us.ˇ±

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Incoming freshman Elise Hendrickson will provide depth at the opposite hitter position as a distinguished high school and club player from Long Beach, Calif.

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ˇ?Elise Hendrickson has the ability to come in and be a great spot player for us as a freshman.? She can play a big role for us,ˇ± Rubio said.

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Middle Blocker

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The power of this seasonˇ?s team can be found on the front line in an experienced and tenacious group of players that provided plenty of rejections at the net last year.

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ˇ?One of our major team strengths last season was blocking,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?We knew we could score points through our blocking and we did.? We hope that continues to be the case this season, as we return two outstanding middle blockers in Dominique Lamb and Jacy Norton.? We also have a lot of depth in the middle, which is nice.ˇ±

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Arizona ranked second in the Pac-10 Conference and eighth in the nation with 3.42 blocks per game, and the teamˇ?s 373 blocks last season ranked second all-time in the school record books.? The Wildcats also posted double-digit team stuffs 23 times last season, including 21 of its last 25 matches.

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Anchoring that middle line for the Wildcats will be Lamb, a two-time All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection.? Lamb was an absolute beast at the net last season, as she dominated on the defensive end for the Wildcats by posted 141 block assists and 169 total blocks on the season, both figures which rank second all-time in the single season record books.? Her 1.55 blocks per game average from a year ago is the fourth best mark all-time in school history.? Lamb also averaged 2.54 kills on a team-best .329 hitting percentage, the eight-best single season mark in school history.

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ˇ?Dominique Lamb, in my mind, will be one of the top middle blockers in the nation this season,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?I feel like we will have to get the ball to her a lot so we can score.? She has an excellent presence around the net.ˇ±

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Pairing up with Lamb to form a daunting duo at net is sophomore Jacy Norton.? As a freshman, Norton used her 6-foot-4 frame to become one of Arizonaˇ?s most consistent defensive players.?? She was second on the team with a 1.48 blocks per game average, the sixth highest mark all-time, and second on the team with 139 blocks, the ninth highest total in school history.? She also led the team in blocks 10 times and tallied five or more blocks in a match 18 times.

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ˇ?Jacy Norton has a year of experience behind her and is a lot stronger than she was as a freshman,ˇ± Rubio said. ?ˇ?Every night she gives you her unbelievably competitive will to win.? As she gets stronger and more skilled at her position, she is going to be a big impact player.ˇ±

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Arizona also brings in a couple of recruits in Kaylen Bannister and Stephanie Snow who can prove to be impact players.? Standing at 6-foot-4 apiece, Bannister and Snow will provide Arizona with a deep rotation of defensive options.

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ˇ?Kaylen Bannister is a budding star in the making,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?She doesnˇ?t have a lot of playing experience, but is physically and athletically off the charts.? She has speed, explosiveness, and length to go along with a great work ethic.ˇ±

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ˇ?Stephanie Snow has the potential to be a great player,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?She is a very hard working player, she has a nice presence on the floor, and the ability to be a solid player for us.ˇ±

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Libero

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The position that Arizona is stocked piled with depth and talent at is the libero position.?

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ˇ?Libero is a position where we also blessed with a lot of depth and options,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?There are a lot of players who can fill that position nicely.? You need three great passers on a team, and we have players who can interchange at that position and make us very successful.ˇ±

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Fresh from her second-consecutive record breaking season at the libero spot is junior Brittany Leonard, as she set single-season school records with 411 digs in a season, and a 3.84 dig per game average in 2006, breaking the record marks from her freshman season in 2005.

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ˇ?Brittany Leonard has had two record-setting seasons at the libero position for us and is a very experienced player,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?As a full-time starter last season, Brittany knows how to play that position and knows what to do to help our team succeed.ˇ±

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Another experienced player in the backline for the Wildcats is senior Katie Jackels.? Last year, Jackels was fourth on the team with 2.36 digs per game, and tallied double-figures in digs 11 times.

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ˇ?Katie Jackels is coming off a great summer,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?She will be expected to step up and be a significant player for us as a senior.ˇ±

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Senior Emily Harper and junior Audrey Bockerstette also return to the roster to provide Arizona with more depth in the backline.?

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ˇ?Emily Harper had an outstanding spring and is one of our top players at libero,ˇ± Rubio said.?? ˇ?Emily shows up every day and plays hard, and is very dependable.? If she can continue to develop her skills she will definitely play a bigger role on our team.? Audrey Bockerstette has also improved tremendously.? She will battle to improve her spot on the depth chart.ˇ±

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Schedule

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As always, Arizona will be faced with the challenge of playing some of the best teams in the country in 2007.? The Wildcats will participate in four non-conference tournaments before competing in the Pac-10 Conference, the best volleyball conference in the nation.

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ˇ?We upgraded our schedule from last year knowing that this yearˇ?s team will be improved,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?We are playing some very good teams.? Our team will travel and play some tough teams on the road.? We have a lot of teams on our schedule that are going to help us build towards our conference season.ˇ±

Arizona will face 10 teams this season that participated in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.? Matchups with Pepperdine, Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Colorado State highlight a tough non-conference slate that will prepare the Wildcats for the ever difficult Pac-10 which features four teams ranked in the this yearˇ?s preseason top-10 rankings.

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ˇ?None of the teams we play will be teams that we can overlook,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?The preseason tournaments are critical for us to get enough wins to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.? It is going to be a challenge for us to compete at a consistent level to beat these teams. ?We are still young, but we are going to push our players to play at a level they are capable of playing at.ˇ±

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In the Pac-10, Arizona will face seven NCAA Tournament participating teams, including two Final Four teams in Washington and Stanford.

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ˇ?The Pac-10 Conference speaks for itself,ˇ± Rubio said.? ˇ?We play in the best volleyball conference in the nation and that is a challenge in itself.? We never have to worry about RPI because of the teams we face during the Pac-10 season.? The key for us will be wins, and if we can get enough wins to get into the tournament.ˇ±

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