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CATCHING UP WITH ... JILLIAN DAVIS.

Former Flintridge Sacred Heart of La Canada Flintridge girls' volleyball standout Jillian Davis has gone from being one of the area's top outside hitters during her high school career to becoming one of the country's top liberos during her four years at California. The seventh-ranked Golden Bears play at No. 3 UCLA tonight and No. 4 USC on Friday in what could be the final trip to Southern California as a player for Davis, a La Canada Flintridge resident.

-- By Erik Boal

National Exposure

Cal, ranked No. 7 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association/College Sports TV national top 25, enters arguably its toughest road trip of the season when it visits No. 3 UCLA at 7 p.m. today at Pauley Pavilion and No. 4 USC at 7 p.m. Friday at the

Galen Center.

Cal (14-2, 3-2) has lost to only No. 5 Washington (14-3, 4-2) and No. 6 Stanford (13-2, 4-1). UCLA (19-0, 6-0) and USC (17-0, 6-0) are two of the four remaining unbeaten teams in the country, along with No. 1 Nebraska (15-0) and No. 2 Penn State (17-0).

``The best thing and the worst thing about playing in the Pac-10 is that you have a chance almost every weekend to move up,'' Davis said. ``This is a really big weekend for us. We have to prove ourselves.

``There's a lot of pressure and a lot at stake for all four teams. We know we need to show up and play our best games because we know that any team can beat any team at any given time.''

A History Lesson

The Golden Bears are 1-48 all-time against UCLA -- 1-39 in Pac-10 play -- recording their lone victory last season with a three-game sweep

at Cal.

Cal is 0-23 all-time at UCLA.

The Golden Bears own an 8-38 all-time mark against USC -- 7-33 in Pac-10 play -- last defeating the Trojans Sept. 25, 2005, in five games at Cal.

Cal is 2-19 all-time at USC, although all those matches were played at the Lyon Center.

``I'm really excited to see the new (Galen Center),'' Davis. ``I think it's awesome that we get to play there on opening weekend.''

Bruins or Trojans?: Tougher Opponent

Davis is 2-3 in her career against USC, missing the Golden Bears' second match against the Trojans during her sophomore year because of an ACL injury to her left knee.

In 19 career games against the Trojans, Davis has 76 digs, three kills and three assists.

Davis has won once in five all-time meetings against UCLA, also missing the Bruins' trip to Berkeley in 2004.

Davis has also played 19 career games against UCLA, recording 107 digs, three kills and three assists.

``Cal's history versus those teams doesn't look so good, but for us, it hasn't been so one-sided against UCLA as it was for the teams before us,'' Davis said. ``The same can be said for USC. They're both great teams, but it's not as daunting as it used to be.''

Sentimental Journey

Barring a trip by Cal to Southern California for the NCAA playoffs in December, tonight and Friday's matches will be Davis' last to UCLA and USC, both of which are less than 30 miles from her hometown of La Canada Flintridge.

``I'm bummed that it's my last trip,'' Davis said. ``I definitely don't want it to be. I don't want to think about it that way.''

Davis is expecting several family members -- most notably her parents, Mike and Paula -- and friends to be in attendance both nights. Nancy Tinkham, her former high school coach at Flintridge Sacred Heart of La Canada Flintridge, is expected to attend Friday's match at USC with her Village Christian of Sun Valley team.

``It's awesome to be at home. It's the greatest feeling,'' Davis said. ``I have a lot of friends at USC and UCLA, and a lot of family and friends all around L.A. It's great to see so many familiar faces in the crowd.''

Approaching Elite Status

Entering this weekend's matches, Davis is 109 digs shy of Lisa Arce's career record of 1,602 at Cal.

Arce, a former All-West Region selection during her four years with the Golden Bears, went on to become an accomplished beach player with the AVP.

Davis already holds the program's single-match (33) -- surpassing the previous mark of 32 set by Tiffany Rochelle in 1988 -- and season digs (538) records. Davis' 2005 total passed Arce's 1988 mark of 480.

``I don't really think about all the stats,'' Davis said. ``In high school, I couldn't tell you how many kills or how many digs I had and that focus has never really shifted for me.

I don't gauge myself on what goes down on that piece

of paper.

``As a freshman, we were just trying to get ranked and now we're No. 7 in the country. That (accomplishment) is 100 times more important to me than anything I've done individually. I'm so proud of where the program is and where it's going.''

A Golden Legacy

Davis, who received Daily News All-Area first-team honors in 2002 after recording 370 kills and 404 digs during her senior year at Flintridge Sacred Heart of La Canada Flintridge, has gone from being a recruited walk-on at Cal to being one of the nation's top liberos.

One of the Golden Bears' captains, Davis and fellow senior Samantha Carter -- also her best friend -- appeared on the cover of Cal's media guide this year.

The four-year starter was a Pac-10 honorable mention selection last year, along with receiving conference all-academic team honors. In 2004, she was invited to try out for the U.S. National A2 team.

``I still can't believe I made it this far,'' Davis said. ``My freshman year, I didn't know if I was going to play or travel. Now that I'm a senior, it's nice to be able to put things back in perspective.''

It's Cool to Play Defense

Davis excelled as an outside hitter in high school and at Santa Monica Beach Club, but at 5-foot-9, she had to make the transition to the libero position to secure playing time for the Golden Bears.

In doing so, she joined the ranks of some of the top players in the Pac-10 at the defensive-oriented position, including UCLA's Chrissie Zartman, Washington's Candace Lee, USC's Debora Seilhamer, Arizona State's Sydney Donahue, and Stanford's Courtney Schultz (Harvard-Westlake of Studio City) and Jessica Fishburn.

The results have been favorable for Davis, who ranks sixth this season in the Pac-10 with 4.36 digs per game -- 231 in 53 games -- after being among the conference's top five in the category her first three years.

Davis led the Pac-10 at 5.43 digs per game during her sophomore year before she was sidelined the second half of the season with her ACL injury.

``When we serve and pass well, we win games and I take a lot of pride in that,'' Davis said. ``I like my position, I really do. We have such great hitters, that it's a pleasure to play behind them.''

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, 4 boxes

Photo:

(1 -- 2) no caption (Jillian Davis)

Box:

(1) PAC-10 CAREER DIGS LEADERS

(2) PAC-10 SING SEASON DIGS LEADERS

(3) 2006 PAC-10 DIGS PER GAME LEADERS

(4) catching up with ... Jillian Davis
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 12, 2006
Words:1214
Previous Article:JUNIOR COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: STRONG START HAS PIERCE SITTING FIFTH IN STATE.
Next Article:COLLEGE ROUNDUP: CHO FINISHES STRONG FOR WAVES.


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