Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
No. 20 Cats To Open NCAA With Northwestern
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: December 01, 2010
Photo Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Dec. 1, 2010

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No. 20 Arizona (20-11, 9-9 Pac-10) vs. Northwestern (19-12, 9-11 Big Ten)

Friday, Dec. 3

6 p.m. CT | McLeod Center | Cedar Falls, Iowa

Internet Live Webcast
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Cedar Falls, Iowa Tournament Central

All-Time Series vs. Northwestern: Arizona leads 2-1 in three matches vs. NU
First Meeting: Sept. 9, 1989 (Arizona 3 NU 1, in Baton Rouge, La.)
Last Meeting: Sept. 16, 2006 (NU 3 Arizona 2 in Evanston, Ill.)

Some Match Themes: No. 20 Arizona garnered its 23rd trip in program history to the NCAA Tournament and 14th under head coach David Rubio after finishing the season at 20-11 overall.  In the first round, UA will face Big Ten foe Northwestern in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  The Midwest Wildcats were one of eight teams selected from the Big Ten to the dance. Under Rubio, Arizona has posted a 22-13 record in NCAA play, reaching the Final Four in 2001. UA will leave the generally warm climate of the Sonoran desert and brave the frigid temps of Cedar Falls.  Arizona will look to its veteran core of Tiffany Owens, Paige Weber and Whitney Dosty to advance during postseason play. Northwestern also features a bevy of experience in middle blockers Sabel Moffett and Naomi Johnson and setter Elyse Glab.  Along with sharing a nickname, NU features four Southern California-area players, a region Arizona has always recruited heavily.  Currently six UA players hail from the SoCal region.


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Last week: Playing two of the nation's top four teams on the road is never a treat, especially with limited time to prepare given the Thanksgiving holiday. As was the case, Arizona dropped its matches at No. 2 Stanford and No. 4 California.  With the wins, the two Bay Area schools finished tied atop the conference and shared co-champions honors.  Against the Cardinal in Maples Pavilion, UA's Tiffany Owens went for a double-double with 16 kills and 10 digs but SU spread its offense around and beat the Wildcats in straight sets, 3-0.  After taking a break for Turkey Day on Thursday, Arizona squared off with Cal in a match televised by Fox Sports Net.  The Golden Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind stout defense play, but UA rallied behind Whitney Dosty's 13 kills in set three to force a fourth set.  Down the stretch, the Bears proved to be too tough and won a share of the conference championship with a 3-1 win.  For the match, Dosty went for a career high 30 kills, breaking her previous high of 29 set in 2006 as a freshman. 


In The Rankings: Arizona remained pegged at No. 20 in the AVCA national rankings despite falling in both matches last week. It's the seventh consecutive poll in which Arizona's been ranked and 10th overall this season.  The Pac-10 had six teams in the Nov. 29 rankings led by No. 2 Stanford.  In the Cedar Falls quad, Northern Iowa is ranked No. 10 while Northwestern received votes.


Head Coach Dave Rubio in his 19th season as head coach of Arizona.  In that time span, Rubio has a record of 360-211. Rubio also boasts a career record of 482-277 in 24+ career years.  In the last ten seasons, Rubio has guided the Wildcats to five Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights and to Arizona's first-ever Final Four. His teams have won over 200 matches during this ten-year stretch, including 16 in the NCAA Tournament, which is six more than the previous 14 postseason teams combined.  Rubio is assisted by associate head coach Steve Walker, assistant coach Allison Napier and volunteer coach Melissa Ohta.

Active Wins Leader in the Pac:  Coach Rubio is the active leader in Conference wins with 360.  The "dean" of Pac-10 head coaches, Rubio's been at the helm of UA seven years longer than the second longest tenured coach (Cal's Rich Feller). Rubio also owns a conference winning percentage of .633 in the always tough Pac-10 and has guided the Cats to now 14 NCAA tournament appearances.

Recent Tournament History: Last season, the Wildcats returned to the NCAA Tournament after a three-year hiatus, receiving an at-large bid to Baton Rouge, La. to face Texas A&M. In the match, the Cats started fast but couldn't hang on, falling to the Aggies 3-1 to exit the dance in the first round.  Before the '09 season, the Cats just missed out on the program's second Final Four back in 2005 when the group of Bre Ladd, Kim Glass and Jen Abernathy lost to Santa Clara on deuce for a national semifinal bid.  Currently on the roster, seven players have postseason experience from a season ago.

All-Pac-10 Teams: Arizona received four representatives on 2010 All-Pac-10 Teams with Tiffany Owens garnering All-Pac-10 kudos while Cursty Jackson and Paige Weber were selected to the honorable mention team.  Freshman Candace Nicholson also received some end-of-the-year love, as she was named to the honorable mention All-Freshman Pac-10 list.  Owens' first team selection is Arizona's first player on the list since Kim Glass and Jen Abernathy were both selected as first-teamers in 2005. 


Success on Senior Night:  Maybe it's the emotion of playing on a night where they are celebrated for their four-year careers at Arizona, or perhaps it is just a last chance at beating a top-ranked opponent at home but UA has had tremendous success and this year was no different.  With Arizona's 3-1 win over No. 11 Washington, it preserved a now seven-year streak of beating a Top 25 team on Senior Night.  Here's the list:


2005 - No. 16 UCLA,                 3-0 W

2006 - No. 24 Oregon                3-2 W

2007 - No. 10 UCLA                  3-1 W

2008 - No. 8 Oregon                  3-1 W

2009 - No. 11 Cal                      3-1 W

2010 - No. 11 Washington          3-1 W



Pac-10 Player of the Week: From a production standpoint, Tiffany Owens never ceases to amaze the UA coaches.  In her last two home matches at McKale Center, Owens combined for 43 kills, 38 digs on .386 hitting to lead Arizona to wins over Washington State and Washington.  For that performance, Owens was named the Conference's player of the week for the week of Nov. 22nd, an accolade she's now received twice this season and four times throughout her career as a Wildcat.  UA's kills and digs leader, there isn't a player more dependable than "TO" on Arizona's roster.


400/400 Club: Owens, with 473 kills and 402 digs this season, joins Terry Lauchner as the only two players in Arizona history to go for 400 in each category in a season.  Lauchner, who played at Arizona before the Dave Rubio era, notched 520 kills and 401 digs way back in 1988.  For her career, Owens has amassed 1,585 kills and 1,174 to rank her among the top four in each category on the Arizona all-time charts.


Double-Double Leader: Over the course of the season, Owens has been the Cats' top scorer and defender.  The versatile outside hitter passes and serves in every rotation and has a knack for racking up double-digit kills and digs. She continues to lead the Pac-10 in double-doubles, recording a total of 18 matches with a 10 spot in the kills and digs category. Moreover, Owens has amassed at least 20 kills in 10 matches and has went for 20 and 20 (kills and digs) five times in 2010. Against No. 2 Stanford, Owens recorded 16 kills and 10 digs.


Arizona vs. Ranked Teams in 2010: After missing a ranked opponent over its non-conference schedule, Arizona did not fare well when playing ranked conference teams.  Holding a record of 3-9, UA has defeated a ranked Oregon team twice this season and Washington in its final home match. Last week, Arizona was tripped up against No. 2 Stanford and No. 4 California on the road.  Of note, four of those seven losses to ranked teams came over five-set matches.


Wins Over Tournament Teams: During the regular season, Arizona topped three NCAA-bound teams.  The Cats beat Big East champion Louisville in five sets and Butler back in September and knocked off No. 11 Washington in its last home match of the year.  All three victories occurred in the friendly confines of McKale Center in Tucson.


A Perfect Fit: When middle blocker Cursty Jackson decided to transfer to Arizona for this season, it couldn't have been a better fit.  Jackson, an explosive jumper who looks to score from the middle position, quickly assumed the starting position and is one of three Wildcats to start every match in 2010.  Statistically speaking, Jackson hits for a high percentage at .350 over her 289 total kills this season.  From a blocking standpoint, Jackson averages 1.12 blocks per set while scoring 27 solo rejections combined with 106 block assists.


Records Made To Be Broken: Of the many Arizona volleyball records, the following are on the verge of being rewritten:

                                                      Leader                                           Currently         

      Single-Season Digs Record:    Brittany Leonard (411)                      Tiffany Owens has (402)

      Single-Season Sets Played:    Lindsey Hahn (128)              Owens, Weber, Jackson have (119)

      Career Matches Started:          Bre Ladd (123)                                 Paige Weber has (122)

      Career Consecutive Sets:        Bre Ladd (447)                                 Paige Weber has (443)



Five-Setters:  Arizona has played to five-sets seven times this season in conference posting a record of 3-4 in those.  The seven conference five-setters in one season trail only UA's 1993 season when it played nine conference five-set matches and one against ASU in the NCAA Tournament.  Here's to hopefully all this tense five-set deuce match experience paying off for the Cats in high-pressure situations. With non-conference matches included, UA's five-set total grows to nine after losing to Cal Poly to open the season while beating Louisville at home. Interestingly enough though, UA hasn't been in an `overtime' match since it defeated Arizona State to close October.


It's Like Candy: Freshman libero Candace Nicholson has been a force along the backrow for Arizona since assuming the starting position mid way through the season.  A first-year player out of Long Beach, Calif., Nicholson is currently second on the team in digs with 353 while averaging 3.1 per set.  Playing above her years, Nicholson has provided the Wildcats with a capable passer in its two-person passing defense.  Additionally, Nicholson has cracked the 20-dig barrier three times in conference matches this season. This week, Nicholson was named to the honorable mention All-Pac-10 Freshman list.


Exercise the Demons:  With Arizona's 3-1 win over No. 11 Washington on Nov. 20, it marked the first time in eight seasons that the Cats had defeated the Huskies.  A streak that spanned 16 matches, the `Dawgs just always seemed to have Arizona's number.  That changed on Senior night, with the Cats getting out to their usual fast start and never letting up.  Down 2-0, the Huskies did manage to take a set, but in the fourth, Arizona played ahead the entire way to clinch the home win.


Not a Bad Second Option: While hampered by some nagging injuries her entire career at Arizona, senior outside hitter Whitney Dosty still can provide a spark when needed and change the complexion of a match.  Equipped with a powerful attack that almost becomes impossible to defend when accurately hit, Dosty has totaled 340 kills in 111 sets played this season. On the defensive end, Dosty is second on the team in blocks with 69 total rejections.  Often referred to as the X factor, if Dosty is playing well, the Wildcats are tough to beat.


Better Late than Never: Dosty, a redshirt senior who missed all of 2007 with a knee injury, went for a career-high 30 kills against No. 4 Cal last week in UA's bid to upset the co-conference champion. While it isn't unusual in the least bit for a senior to record a career-high, the interesting thing is Dosty's previous career-high of 29 came during her freshman season in 2006 in a conference match against Oregon.  Over the non-conference slate this season, Dosty just missed that number, going for 28 kills in a win over Big East champion and NCAA Tournament participant  Louisville.


Facilitating the Offense: Senior Paige Weber is proving to be one of the nation's top setters yet again in 2010 as she has totaled 1,305 assists for an a/s ratio of 10.97.  Now in her final year at UA, Weber has recorded 4,938 total assists, good for second on UA all-time assist chart, trailing only All-American Dana Burkholder. Weber is also third among active Pac-10 setters in total assists.  Additionally, Weber has tallied at least 1,000 kills all four seasons at Arizona.


All-Academic Paige:  Weber has been able to find that perfect balance between her studies and volleyball during her four seasons at Arizona.  The Indianapolis native, studying accounting at the Eller College of Management, carries a 3.88 grade point average and was named to the Pac-10 All-Academic First Team for the third consecutive season.  Way to go, Paige.


Quite the Streak: Weber has put together quite an impressive iron-woman streak, playing in every set of her Wildcat career.  That amounts to 443 consecutive sets played over four seasons. In terms of matches started, Weber is currently second on the UA list with 122.  Should Weber start UA's tilt with Northwestern (we're guessing she will) the senior setter will tie Bre Ladd's Arizona record of 123 matches started.


COBRA Magazine Preseason All-Americans: Tiffany Owens was named to this season's COBRA Magazine National Player of the Year Watch List.  Also garnering praise from COBRA was hitter Whitney Dosty who was named to the publication's All-American Preseason Second-Team list.


Fall Signing Class: Arizona brings in arguably a Top 10 recruiting class for the 2011 season after singing five highly-touted recruits to National Letters-Of-Intent.  Halli Amaro (Los Alamitos, Calif.) , Shaquillah Torres (Orange, Calif.), Chloe Mathis (La Jolla, Calif.), Taylor Arizobal (Dana Hills, Calif.) and Rachel Rhoades (San Diego, Calif.) comprise this year's class.  This season, Amaro and Mathis were each named to the Under Armour All-America team.  Mathis, from La Jolla, Calif., is a First Team selection while Amaro was on the Second Team. Two other newcomers for Arizona next season are Madison Kingdon (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Liz Manthei (Las Vegas, Nev.).  Kingdon, the Player of the Year in Arizona this season, has signed a financial aid agreement and will graduate early from high school to join UA during the spring semester.  Both her and Manthei also garnered All-America recognition.


Up Next: Should Arizona advance out of the first round, the Cats will meet the winner of No. 10 Northern Iowa and Missouri on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. CT in the McLeod Center. Visit the tournament page for links for GameTracker and live video/radio.