THIS WEEK: The No. 17 Arizona volleyball team opens the 2005 season with the Four Points University Plaza Wildcat Classic this Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 1-3. The complete tournament schedule is as follows:
Sept. 1 Thu. Northwestern vs. Winthrop 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 Fri. Winthrop vs. Arizona 10 a.m.
Georgia Tech vs. Northwestern noon
Georgia Tech vs. Arizona 7 p.m.
Sept. 3 Sat. Winthrop vs. Georgia Tech 5 p.m.
Northwestern vs. Arizona 7 p.m.
A QUICK LOOK AT ARIZONA: The Wildcats return five starters from last year’s squad that made the program’s ninth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Included in that group are two-time All-American Kim Glass, three-time All-Pacific-10 selection Bre Ladd and outside hitter Jennifer Abernathy. Also returning are starters setter Stephanie Butkus and middle blocker Dominique Lamb. Arizona also welcomes eight newcomers to the team, including a pair of Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 players, Brooke Buringrud and Randy Goodenough.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION:
Winthrop - The Eagles (2-0) opened the season last weekend with sweeps of William & Mary and Elon. Senior Mary Hock, the reigning Big South Conference Player of the Year, led the team with 30 kills over the two matches.
Winthrop went 31-4 last season, including a perfect 14-0 mark in Big South play, to win its third-straight conference title. Hock was the conference’s first-ever All-American as she was an honorable mention pick by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
Georgia Tech - No. 20 Georgia Tech (0-0) finished the 2004 season with a 27-7 record, including a perfect 16-0 mark in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play. The team advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.
The 2005 team returns four starters, including AVCA honorable mention All-American setter Lindsey Labband, who last year led the nation in assists per game. However, the team must make up for the loss of two All-Americans.
Northwestern - The Wildcats (1-0) opened the season with a sweep of Wisconsin-Green Bay at home last Saturday. Courtney Paulus and Lindsay Anderson tallied 12 kills apiece to lead Northwestern to the victory.
The Wildcats return five starters from last year’s squad that went 10-20 overall and 5-15 in Big Ten play, good for ninth place. The team had been to the NCAA Tournament each of the two seasons prior.
Winthrop - This is the first-ever meeting between Arizona and the Eagles.
Georgia Tech - Friday’s match is the first-ever between the Wildcats and the Yellow Jackets.
Northwestern - Arizona leads the all-time series with Northwestern 1-0. The two teams’ only meeting came on Sept. 9, 1989, with Arizona winning 3-1 in Baton Rouge, La.
SEASON OPENERS: Arizona is 20-8 all-time in season openers since 1977. This is the first time in 10 years that the Wildcats have opened the season at McKale. Last year, Arizona swept San Diego State in its season opener on Sept. 1.
GIGANTIC ROSTER: This year’s squad of 18 is the largest in the history of the program. Head Coach Dave Rubio us hoping that the increased numbers will pay off, as Arizona was stricken with numerous injuries last season.
POLL POSITION: For the second year in a row, Arizona is ranked No. 17 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.
PAC-10 POLL: Arizona was picked to finish third in the Pac-10 in a preseason vote of the league’s 10 head coaches. The Wildcats received 67 points in the poll, one shy of third place. Defending Pac-10 champion Washington was picked to repeat as conference champion, while defending national champion Stanford was second with two first-place votes and 83 points. Southern California (68) edged the Wildcats for third place by one point. The coaches have correctly picked the Pac-10 champion in nine of the previous 16 polls. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team.
CONFERENCE ACTIVE CAREER LEADERS: Arizona boasts several of the Pac-10’s active career statistical leaders. Senior Kim Glass is the current leader in kills (1,526) and ranks second in service aces (118). Fellow senior Bre Ladd is the leader in blocks (337), while setter Stephanie Butkus ranks third in assists (2,535).
STACKED SCHEDULE: As always, Arizona faces a tough schedule this season. Included on the slate are 14 matches against teams that participated in last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats will also face seven teams (Stanford, Washington, USC, UCLA, Georgia Tech, California and UC Santa Barbara) that were ranked in the preseason Top 25 in the AVCA/CSTV Coaches Poll.
TELEVISION TIME: Two of Arizona’s matches this season will be televised on a tape-delay basis on FSN. The Wildcats’ Oct. 7 match at Arizona State (which will air on Oct. 8) and the team’s home match on Nov. 18 vs. USC (which will air on Nov. 19) can be seen by a national audience on FSN.
PAC-10 POTPOURRI: With Stanford capturing the NCAA title last season, the Pac-10 has now won four consecutive national championships (Stanford in 2004 and 2001, USC in 2003 and 2002). What’s more, Pac-10 teams have claimed 12 of the sport’s 24 NCAA championships.
RUBIO’S RECORD: Head Coach Dave Rubio boasts a 253-135 record (.652) in his 13 seasons at the helm of the Wildcat program. He needs just six more wins to become the all-time winningest coach in school history. Rosie Wegrich, who coached from 1977-1991, compiled a 258-229-9 record (.531) in 15 seasons.
GLASS’ STREAKS: Senior Kim Glass has at least three kills and three digs in 82 of the 84 matches on her career. What’s more, she has recorded double-digit kills in all but 10 (74 of 84) matches during her three years. With 1,526 career kills, she is 110 away from second place, currently held by Terry Lauchner (1987-1990).
BLOCKING MACHINE: Senior Bre Ladd has been a consistent defensive threat at the net ever since she arrived on campus in the fall of 2002. The middle blocker has at least one block in 89 of 94 career matches, including 29 of 30 last season. What’s more, the Tucson native currently has 337 total blocks on her career, good for eighth place all-time at Arizona and just three away from seventh place, currently held by Kristi Colson (1988-91).
CLOSING IN: Senior Jennifer Abernathy is 27 digs away from 500, while sophomore Amy Dyck is six assists away from 100 on her career. Junior Stephanie Butkus is 23 digs away from 200, while senior Kim Glass is five blocks away from 200 on her career. Senior Bre Ladd is 41 kills away from 900 on her career.
BUTKUS ENTERS ELITE STATUS: Last season, setter Stephanie Butkus became just the sixth Wildcat ever to eclipse the 2,000-assist mark. With 2,535 assists on her career, if she continues at her current pace, the junior would finish her career with 5,070, good for second place behind two-time All-American Dana Burkholder (5,424).
UP NEXT: Arizona travels to Santa Clara, Calif., for the Bronco Invitational, next Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 8-10, where it will face No. 15 UC Santa Barbara, host Santa Clara and Fresno State.