Indoor volleyball players adjusting to sand
Arizona’s volleyball team ended its 2013 season with a bitter taste in its mouth after falling to San Diego in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
That bitter taste is likely to dissipate quickly, as players from that team will have the opportunity to be a part of Arizona’s newest sport, sand volleyball, which is in its inaugural season.
The Wildcats will carry over nine players from the indoor team and use four non-indoor players to fill out the 13-player roster.
Junior defensive specialist Ronni Lewis played with the indoor team last season, finishing with 257 digs and 73 assists.
Junior Ronni Lewis practices with the UA sand volleyball team on Feb. 3 at the Jimenez Practice Facility. Tournaments begin this month.
Freshman Penina Snuka, who was named to the Pac-12 All Freshman team, finished fifth in the Pac–12 Conference with 1196 assists.
Sophomore Halli Amaro finished second on the team with 111 blocks.
And rounding out the main contributors from the indoor team, junior Taylor Arizobal accumulated 209 kills and 87 blocks.
Despite it being the players’ first season adjusting to the sand, expectations are still high.
“Some teams might have a little jump on us, but I’ve been doing this for a numbers of years,” head coach Steve Walker said. Walker was head coach at UC Davis for two years before becoming head coach at Arizona. “I like our athletes we have in our program, and I think they are all highly competitive. Some might be more skilled in the sand then others, but that is not going to stop us from competing and setting our goals high.”
One of Arizona’s star players from the indoor team, junior Madi Kingdon, has similar goals.
“It’s the first season, so I’m just hoping to come out, compete and have a good year,” Kingdon said, who led the Pac–12 in points and was named to the All-Pac-12 team. “Hopefully we can make it to the championships at the end.”
The Wildcats will need to adjust to the new playing surface as well as the five doubles teams, which they rank on ability.
“Our expectations for sand are to take one day at a time,” junior Jane Croson said. “When we have tournaments, they’re a group of games, so we need to make sure we win those little ones [in the tournaments], and then keep pressing.”
But Walker said he believes his squad has made great strides since practices began in January.
“What has been the best is how ready the players have come out and be ready to play every single day,” Walker said. “It is not surprising given the players we have had in our [indoor volleyball] program. For some it has been shocking how easy the transition has been, and for others the transition has been a little slower, but overall it has been nothing short of a terrific transition.”
Defense might be the squad’s weakness, but Walker said he is not too worried, as they will benefit more with the serve-receive and side-out game.
“If you can score in the side-out game and serve–reception game, then regardless of how good you are defensively, you can still win the game,” Walker said. “We have been spending a lot of time with the serve-receive aspects of the game, setting and the offensive parts. We feel the defense will come on a later date.”
—Follow Tyler Keckeisen @tyler_keckeisen