Aug. 26, 2003
For Openers: Arizona will open the 2003 season on Friday, August 29, in Malibu Calif., at the Pepperdine Classic against Notre Dame ... Arizona last made a trip to Pepperdine in 1984 ... The Wildcats will open their season away from McKale for the eighth straight season ... Arizona is 19-7 in season-opening matches dating back to 1977 ... The Wildcats have won two consecutive season-opening matches with the last loss on opening day coming to UC Santa Barbara in five games in 2000 ... Arizona's first two matches of the season, against Notre Dame and Eastern Washington, will take place on a neutral floor (Pepperdine's Firestone Fieldhouse). Arizona is 33-6 (.846) on neutral floors under current head coach David Rubio.
Looking Back: Arizona is coming off its seventh straight 20-plus win season ... The Wildcats finished the 2002 year with a 20-12 overall record and a final AVCA ranking of No. 10 ... In Pac-10 play Arizona went 11-7, which placed the Wildcats in a tie with Washington State for third place ... Arizona advanced to the postseason for the seventh consecutive season and hosted the first and second rounds for the second time in three years ... Arizona defeated UT-Arlington, Texas and Minnesota in the first three rounds of the tournament, respectively, to advance to the Elite Eight for the third consecutive year ... Current sophomore Kim Glass was named the AVCA Freshman of the Year, as well as garnering the same honor from the Pac-10.
Youth Reigns: The Wildcats will feature a decidedly youthful team in 2003. Arizona's roster of 14 includes just one senior and three juniors. The other 10 spots consist of four sophomores and six freshmen (including redshirt Meghan Cumpston). The last time Arizona fielded such a underclass-dominate team came in 1999 when UA's roster was filled out with one senior, four juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen. That team went 21-11 and played in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.
Net Returns: Arizona returns seven letter winners from last season's team, including four starters. All seven returners played in at least 19 of Arizona's 32 matches in 2002. Kim Glass, the 2002 AVCA National Freshman of the Year, highlights the returning squad. Joining her are classmates Bre Ladd, a 2002 Freshman All-Pac-10 honoree, and Jennifer Abernathy. Also returning are juniors Kelli Mulvany, Jolene Killough and Cassidy Crum. One of the returning seven, Angie Ayers, has been lost for the season due to injury.
Key Losses: In addition to losing Angie Ayers for the season with a knee injury, Arizona will also have to overcome the loss of an experienced departed senior class. Lisa Rutledge, Shannon Torregrosa and Rachel Williams all played a part in helping Arizona reach four Sweet Sixteens, three Elite Eights and the Final Four in 2001 during their careers at UA. Throw in last season's starting setter Laurie Gardner and graduated redshirt junior Christina Frost and the Wildcats lost quite a bit of experience on the floor.
Fresh Faces: The Wildcats welcome in a total of six newcomers to the team this season. The five freshmen and one senior transfer will all play a part in the success of Arizona in 2003. Freshmen Stephanie Butkus (S) and Kristina Baum (MB/Opp) were both named Fab 50 recruits by Volleyball Magazine after their impressive prep careers. Classmates Tyler Bowman (L/S), Holyce Caldwell (L) and Enobong Ibok (MB) all add to another impressive recruiting class for the Wildcats. Joining the freshmen in Tucson this year is senior transfer Kelly Halfaker. Halfaker, nee Griffin, played three seasons as the starting setter at New Mexico before coming to the Old Pueblo. Also making her return to the floor this season is redshirt freshman Meghan Cumpston.
Sibling Rivalry: Freshman Enobong Ibok will have a particular interest in the Arizona-UTEP football game this Saturday. Ibok's older brother, Ibok Ibok, is the starting defensive end on the UTEP squad.
Polling Place: Arizona will enter the season at the same spot in the AVCA Poll as it finished last season, 10th. The Wildcats garnered 970 points, just behind 2003 opponent UC Santa Barbara.
Poll Facts: Arizona's preseason ranking extends its streak to 79 consecutive polls in the top 25 ... Arizona will take on nine teams ranked in the preseason top 25, including four of the top five teams, and five teams that received votes in the poll ... The Pac-10, which sent a conference record eight teams to the NCAA postseason in 2002, has five teams ranked in the top 25 of the preseason poll and two other schools that fell just outside.
Pac-10 Predictions: The conference coaches have predicted that Arizona will finish tied for third with UCLA in the Pac-10 this season. USC, the defending national champions, were voted to win the conference for the second straight season, having recieved nine first-place votes. Stanford recieved the other first place vote and is predicted to finish second. The conference coaches have correctly named the eventual conference winner in eight of the last 14 preseason predictions.
New Coaches: Arizona will have a pair of new coaches on the bench this season. Rejoining the staff after two seasons at the University of Alabama is assistant Steve Walker. A collegiate player at Long Beach State, Walker was the volunteer assistant for Arizona during UA's 2000 Pac-10 championship season. Also joining the staff is volunteer assistant Lori Price. Price, who played at William & Mary, served as an assistant coach for the Tribe the last four seasons.
The Pepperdine Classic: Arizona heads to Malibu, Calif., for the opening weekend of play ... The Wildcats will square off against defending Big East champion Notre Dame in the first match of the year ... Arizona is 1-1 all time against the Fighting Irish ... UND received 116 votes in the preseason AVCA poll, just outside the top 25 ... Arizona and Notre Dame last met in 1993 ... Eastern Washington, Arizona's second opponent in Malibu, returns to action after getting left out of the NCAA postseason despite having a tremendous 29-2 overall record in 2002 ... Arizona is 2-0 all-time against EWU ... The Eagles and Wildcats last met in 1997 ... Eastern Washington also received votes in the preseason AVCA poll ... Host school Pepperdine, Arizona's final opponent of the opening weekend, heads into the season after posting 26-7 record last year ... Like Arizona, the Waves advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament last season ... Arizona is 4-6 all-time against Pepperdine, including a 3-0 loss to the Waves in Tucson last season ... Pepperdine is highly regarded heading into the season with a No. 5 ranking in the preseason poll.
A glimpse at the 2003 Wildcats
Returning Starters 2002 Stats
Bre Ladd So./MB 32 MP, 279 kills, 2.45 kpg, .298 Hit %, 124 blocks, 1.09 bgp
Kim Glass So./OH 32 MP, 556 kills, 4.96 kpg, .286 Hit %, 280 digs, 2.50 dgp
Kelli Mulvany Jr./L 32 MP, 291 digs, 2.83 dgp
A glimpse at the 2003 Wildcats Returning Starters 2002 Stats
Other Returners Jennifer Abernathy So./OH 27 MP, 57 kills, 1.00 kpg, 79 digs, 1.39 dpg Cassidy Crum Jr./L 19 MP, 11 digs Jolene Killough Jr./MB 22 MP, 42 Kills, 0.81 kpg, .305 Hit %, 24 blocks, 0.46 dpg Meghan Cumpston Fr./OH Redshirted
Injured Reserve Angie Ayers So./MB 29 MP, 69 kills, 0.78 kpg, 95 blocks, 1.08 bpg
Newcomers Kristina Baum Fr./OH-MB Tyler Bowman Fr./L-S Stephanie Butkus Fr./S Holyce Caldwell Fr./L Kelly Halfaker Sr./S Enobong Ibok Fr./MB