Dec. 1, 2001
CHAMPAIGN, Ill.-For the third straight season the Arizona volleyball team has punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats defeated host school Illinois, 3-1, in second round action in front of 1,189 fans in Huff Hall, Saturday night. The victory improved fifth seeded Arizona's record to 23-4 overall for the season. Games scores were 32-30, 30-26, 27-30, 30-20. The Wildcats advance on in the postseason tournament to face the winner of the Pacific-Louisville match next weekend in the regional semifinal at a site that will be determined on Monday.
"We're very fortunate to be coming home with two wins," said Arizona head coach David Rubio. "Illinois played a terrific match tonight and were a great opponent. The came out well prepared and gave us everything they had."
Games one and two could have gone either way and went back and forth throughout. In the opening frame the Cats trailed 27-23 late, but used a pair of three point runs to pull ahead of the Illini at 29-28. The host school battled back to hold Arizona at game point twice, but eventually succumbed the Cats, 32-30. Arizona hit an impressive .349 in the opening game, but also left the door open for Illinois with four service errors and three service reception errors. Junior Lisa Rutledge matched her first game output from the opening round win over Eastern Illinois with six kills. Stefani Saragosa and Jill Talbot tallied five and four kills, respectively, in game one.
Game two saw the Illini take a 19-15 lead deep into the game, however, an Arizona 6-0 run turned the tides in favor of the Cardinal and Navy. Leading 21-19, Arizona exchanged points with UI up to 27-26 and a final 3-0 spurt, punctuated with a game ending kill by senior Erin Sebbas, gave the Cats the 2-0 advantage heading into the break. Talbot carried the load for the Cats in game two with seven kills on 10 attempts with only one error (.600).
Game three went in the favor of the Illini. The Wildcats proved to be their own worst enemy in the game, committing nearly half of its attack errors that far into the match, 12 of 25, in the third game. Illinois played well tallying 15 kills and 20 digs and utilized three, three point scoring runs to extend the match one more game.
A regrouped and determined Arizona team took the floor in the fourth game and put the match to rest. Senior Dana Burkholder took charge and led the Cats to victory. Arizona's floor leader dished out 17 assists and tallied five kills and four digs in the final frame. Arizona, which it .486 in the fourth game, never trailed and led by as many as 12 points.
As a team, Arizona finished the match with 79 kills on 184 attempts and 30 errors for a .266 hitting percentage. The Cats edged out the Illini in blocks 13-10 and in digs 71-65.
Individually, five Arizona players finished with double digit kills. Talbot led all players with 18 kills and also chipped in with a match-high 16 digs. Lisa Rutledge continued her hot hitting with 16 kills and played well defensively with 12 digs. Middle blockers Stefani Saragosa and Erin Sebbas had 14 and 10 kills, respectively. Sebbas also tallied eight total blocks for the Cats. Shannon Torregrosa continued her recovery from a sprained ankle with 12 kills.
Burkholder ended the night two kills short of a triple-double, posting 63 total assists, 14 digs and eight kills. Freshman defensive specialist Kelli Mulvany had 14 digs.
Arizona will return to Tucson Sunday morning and will find where and when they will play its Sweet 16 match next weekend.