Volleyball kicks off Territorial Cup Series; Cats win first

Friday’s 3-0 volleyball sweep by the Wildcats officially opened the annual Territorial Cup Series between the University of Arizona and Arizona State.

Arizona gets half a point for its win.  It needs to win again when the rivalry shifts to Tempe later this month to earn the full point and move closer to the 9.5 total points UofA needs to claim the trophy at the end of the school year.

Last year, the Wildcats won both ends of the volleyball series, 3-0 and 3-1, to earn the point.

The Cats, who were given a No. 18 ranking in the pre-season coaches poll but fell out of the top 25, hit .298 over the three sets to up their season mark to 11-4 at the mid-season point.  Courtney Karst led the way with a season-high 12 kills, and four Arizona players had nine or more kills apiece.

ASU dropped to 5-10 overall and is still looking for its first Pac-10 win.  UofA was also winless in conference play coming into this match, having lost to No. 1  Stanford and No. 8 California.

In the first set, the Wildcats showed the confidence early that comes with playing on your own court, scoring the first point and holding the lead the rest of the way, despite the Devils tying it up at 18.  Kills from Tiffany Owens, Whitney Dosty, and Cursty Jackson wrapped up the 26-24 win.

Dosty is a 6’3″ outside hitter from Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, where she was named the 2005 Southern Arizona Player of the Year by the Tucson newspapers and was ranked as the No. 4 recruit in the nation her senior year.

Dosty, one of four starters returning from last year’s squad, is wrapping up her collegiate career this season.  Knee injuries forced her to take a medical redshirt for the 2007 season.

In the second set, the Cats jumped out again to an early lead, 10-7, and used a 5-0 run midway through to mount a lead that would hold for the 25-19 win.  It was Owens leading the way this time, with five kills and an assist.

By the third set, the Cats were hitting their stride and limited ASU to just a dozen points, as the Sun Devils contributed to the loss with 12 unforced errors.  Courtney Karst took the lead with five kills as the Cats’ wrapped up the match, using a .379 attack percentage in the final set for the 25-12 win.

The ‘Duel in the Desert’ rivalry, which dates back to when Arizona was still a territory, will move back to Tempe for the second half of the volleyball portion, with a match on Oct. 29.

Volleyball is just one of 18 total teams that are involved in the competition for the State Farm Territorial Cup Series trophy.  Each sport can contribute one point; in those sports that involve more than one meeting during the season, like volleyball, all regular-season games will count toward the total for that sport.  If the teams split the match-ups, each is awarded a half point.

The Wildcats fell from the national rankings early in the season, but will have to face a number of Pac-10 teams that have actually moved up in the rankings since the pre-season poll was issued.

Stanford has gone from No. 4 pre-season to No. 1 in this week’s poll, while USC climbed from No. 10 to No. 5.  Other Pac-10 teams moving up include California at No. 8, Oregon at No. 11, and UCLA at No. 12.  Washington dropped from No. 8, but is still ranked No. 10.

Looks like the Arizona schools have an uphill climb this year.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)