Indoor Wildcats adjust to sand play
Volleyball is a sport where agility is important, so the transition from indoor to sand is difficult for players, especially when the surface feels like quicksand compared to a wooden court.
Sand volleyball is Arizona’s newest sport, but most of its players are on the indoor team as well.
To help with the transition, UA head coach Steve Walker said they are taking baby steps by reteaching the fundamentals.
“Obviously, we want to practice and focus on mental and practice habits,” Walker said. “I am pleased with the group of players’ effort and the way they have competed so far.”
Walker’s roster consists of 13 student athletes, nine coming from the indoor team and four sand-only players.
Steve Walker, the head coach for the UA sand volleyball team, demonstrates different techniques that the team can use during the upcoming season at the Jimenez Practice Facility on Monday. The season will begin in March.
Since this is Arizona’s first season in the new sport, which was inaugurated in 2011, the players need to get acclimated to new practice techniques.
“So far, we have been concentrating on the first two contacts,” Walker said. “With us having a number of players transitioning from the indoor game, we need to start getting really comfortable with the serve-receive aspects of the game, and the setting part of the game.”
Perfecting the serve-receive and setting aspects will be vital, since wind conditions will affect ball trajectory.
“Going from indoor to outdoor, I need to work on getting comfortable with timing and atmosphere,” said junior Jane Croson, who accumulated nearly 300 digs indoors in 2013. “It’s hard getting adjusted to wind conditions when you play outside, but it just takes [time to get] adjusted to the little things.”
But in time, Walker said he thinks his players will become more comfortable with the newer mental reps.
“It’s going to be a challenge, since those two things of mental reps have been drilled into their heads for most of their career indoors,” Walker said. “Now, they have to transition to sand and basically relearn newer techniques.”
Walker was associate head coach of the UA indoor team, head coach of UC Davis’ indoor squad, played indoor in college and played beach volleyball professionally.
“When they are outside, the technique and timing is completely different,” Walker said. “So, just getting them comfortable in [serve-receive and setting aspects] of the game is a good first step.”
Running in the sand and maintaining responsibilities to the indoor team makes players sore, but junior Madi Kingdon, who is an outside hitter on the indoor team, said she is not too worried about that.
In preparation for the team’s first match on March 7 against Arizona Christian at home, it will be practicing daily Monday through Friday with all 13 players. However, there will only be sand-only players on Wednesday, as that day will consist mainly of drills.
—Follow Tyler Keckeisen @tyler_keckeisen