Volleyball open season in Louisville
Arizona volleyball kicks off the season with three matches at the Louisville Tournament in Louisville, Kent.
Redshirt junior outside hitter Whitney Dosty and Tiffany Owens will lead the attack for Arizona. Dosty recorded 281 kills and 61 blocks in her debut season after returning from a knee injury in 2007, while Owens made her impact felt on offense in her sophomore campaign, leading Arizona in double-doubles and kills. Owens was named to the All-Conference honorable mention list for her efforts last season.
The Wildcats did not lose a starting player after the 2008 season – something that head coach Dave Rubio hopes will give Arizona an advantage.
""The core of that group has been through the trenches … kind of been through it a few times,"" Rubio said. ""We feel pretty good about them.""
Arizona is also confident in their defense. Senior Alanna Resch had 405 digs last season, the second most in Arizona history.
The road trip will also be a homecoming for senior middle blocker Jacy Norto. The Louisville native is the active leader in total blocks for the Pacific 10 Conference with 339 in her career.
The Wildcats also have junior Paige Weber returning to the setter position. Weber has not missed a single set since starting her career at Arizona.
Weber and Dosty were both named to the U.S. Women's National A2 Program for 2009.
""The biggest thing is our setting,"" said Rubio. ""I think that Paige is maybe one of the top setters in the conference. She adds a wealth of knowledge and experience that we haven't had in some time.""
Weber and the rest of the Wildcats are anxious to get the season underway. They have faced only each other in practice, and after facing two 2008 tournament teams in their opening weekend, they will be able to evaluate their offseason training.
""You know, you kind of see the same faces in practice every day,"" Rubio said after the Red/Blue scrimmage.
Added Weber: ""When we get to Louisville, we'll get to see where we are and what we've done. That will give us a good gauge.""
The defending Big East conference winner and the 2009 preseason selection for top spot in the Big East, the Louisville Cardinals have the home court advantage. A tournament team last season, it is led by seniors Lecia Brown and Justine Landi, both of whom were selected to the All-Big East 2009 preseason team.
The Wildcats have never faced the University of Belmont in school history. Although the Bruins were a NCAA tournament selection in 2008, they lost their opening match to then-No. 7 Hawaii. Belmont returns four starting players to their lineup including middle blocker redshirt senior Jenny Gray and sophomore setter Channing Salava. They are led by head coach Deane Webb, who enters this season with 279 wins.
Like Arizona, the University of Pittsburgh is looking to return to the NCAA tournament. The Panthers have been absent since 2004. Unlike Arizona, Pittsburgh welcomed eight new players this season to compliment their three returning starters and libero. Arizona and Pittsburgh have split their last six meetings with the Wildcats winning their most recent match in 2006.
Arizona will also welcome redshirt sophomore Elise Hendrickson back to the court. Hendrickson, who spent all last season rehabilitating a knee injury, recorded one start as a freshman and saw action in 28 games.