In 1973, the ASU and UA women’s volleyball programs played each other for the first time. The Sun Devils swept the Wildcats that year, winning all five matchups and dropping just one set.
Since then, the scales have balanced out. ASU (11-1) leads the all-time series 47-43, and the teams have split the series the past two years.
In addition to the battle for intrastate bragging rights, the rivalry now means something more: A fight for Territorial Cup Series points.
UA coach Dave Rubio said his volleyball team wants to earn the first point for UA (10-2) in this year’s series.
“We’re going to do our part to try to win some points for UA,” Rubio said. “Obviously in-state rights are at stake.”
In volleyball, the Sun Devils and Wildcats face each other twice per season, once in Tuscon and once in Tempe. Win both games and an entire Territorial Cup Series point is earned for the school. If the teams split, as they have the past two years, each university earns a half-point.
Senior libero Stephanie Preach said the Territorial Cup Series means a lot to the ASU volleyball team.
“The rival cup is pretty important to us,” Preach said. “It’s this mark of being the best volleyball program there is in Arizona.”
Tuesday’s volleyball matchup is the first Territorial Cup Series battle and the first Pac-12 competition for both squads. ASU coach Jason Watson said the rivalry games are always important for determining postseason play.
“Those are big matches for us when it comes down to postseason, when it comes down to the NCAA selection,” Watson said.
Both teams are playing with just two days of rest. UA swept the Wildcat Classic Saturday with a thrilling comeback over UC Santa Barbara.
“You’re not going to feel like you got enough time to disseminate the information to the players about the next opponent,” Rubio said. “Whatever the residual effects of the last couple weeks, you just hope that it’s not going to show up tomorrow night.”
Two weeks ago, Rubio and the Wildcats travelled to Hawaii for a weekend tournament. UA dropped the finale to No. 10 Hawaii, in its second loss of 2013.
That match was just the third road game UA has played all year. The Wildcats, who are 0-1 away from Tucson, hosted three different non-conference tournaments in Tuscon. Rubio said he thought the team’s limited road experience wouldn’t be an issue.
The Wildcats returned 10 players for the 2013 season, including junior outside hitter Madi Kingdon, a Phoenix native who leads the Pac-12 in double-doubles (digs/kills).
Kingdon, like ASU’s sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner, played with the Pac-12 All-Star team in China over the summer. She also earned Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors with her performance in the Wildcat Classic, where she recorded 22 kills and 21 digs in the comeback over USCB.
Another returner is senior libero Candace Nicholson, who just last weekend set the all-time record for digs at UA.
Arizona’s setter is freshman Penina Snuka, who won Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Week honors in the Wildcat Classic. Snuka is the only Wildcat to have played in all 43 sets in 2013.
Rubio described his team as both competitive and fundamentally sound.
“I don’t think we’re overly athletic,” Rubio said. “I don’t think we’re overly physical. I think we’re a good solid team that hopefully is well trained and able to fundamentally perform the skills.”
The Territorial Cup Series kicks off Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.
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