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Volleyball remains perfect

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Junior Tiffany Owens celebrates a close 3-2 set win over the New Mexico Lobos Saturday. The outside hitter tallied 29 kills for the Wildcats, a career high.

No. 21 Arizona volleyball has gotten off to the best start in the program's history, going undefeated through the non-conference season.


Their play at the Arizona Invitational this weekend proved helpful to the Wildcats in more ways than one. While Arizona (11-0) added three more tallies to the win column and remained perfect on the season, they also proved something to themselves — they can battle back.


Heading into the second straight weekend without junior outside hitter Whitney Dosty, who was sidelined with a hand injury, Arizona was looking to prove that they could still win as a team. The Wildcats also faced three challenging opponents, including two that traditionally are selected to the NCAA tournament at the end of the season.


""We needed to get tested,"" head coach Dave Rubio said. ""We had to be put in this position. I wanted us to be put in this position.""


Against Tulane, the Wildcats were spot on with their attacking. Junior outside hitter Tiffany Owens recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 14 kills and 16 digs.


Redshirt sophomore Elise Hendrickson also helped out defensively, notching a season-high 17 digs for Arizona.


The nightcap did not prove as easy for the Wildcats. After facing the Green Wave at 11 a.m., the team returned to McKale Center for its second game of the weekend.


The toughest challenge of the season so far came against the New Mexico Lobos (10-4). Arizona dropped two sets in a match for the first time this season against New Mexico. Before this match, the Wildcats had only lost two sets the entire season.


Although it edged the Lobos by a score of 3-2, New Mexico also forced Arizona to go five sets in a match — the Wildcats had previously only been forced to play four sets.


""I think a lot of it is that they're one of the highest level of teams we've (faced) so far this season,"" said senior middle blocker Jacy Norton. ""They came to win.""


The problems started early in the match for Arizona. Their attacking struggled, and three players registered a negative attacking percentage. The Wildcats finished the game with a hitting percentage of just .116.


Owens shined once again for Arizona, registering a career-high 29 kills and 59 attempts. Her play was key for the Wildcats as they rallied back to take sets four and five from New Mexico.


""I think we just came together,"" Norton said. ""We got a few blocks and then we took some pressure off the outside.""


In their last game before entering into Pacific 10 Conference play, the Wildcats faced University of Texas El Paso (7-6). They swept the Miners, going 25-12, 25-17 and 25-17 in the sets.


Although they admitted to being tired after the match against New Mexico, the Wildcats were pleased to pull out the win.


While Arizona has escaped the pre-conference season without a loss, it only gets harder from here. Currently, seven teams in the Pac-10 are ranked in the top 25.


""We're definitely pleased to be 11-0,"" junior setter Paige Weber said about going undefeated in non-conference schedule. ""But we can't figure out or gauge where we stand until we are in the conference play. We'll find out next weekend how prepared we actually are.""


Arizona will open Pac-10 play Saturday, hosting Southern California and No. 7 UCLA.


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