Sand volleyball goes 2-2 over spring break
Arizona sand volleyball went 2-2 in its two recent tournaments played over spring break.
Arizona’s (5-2) first two losses of the season came against No. 3 Hawaii (6-1) and No. 2 USC (5-1) in Hawaii on March 19.
The Wildcats failed to win one set in their match against Hawaii. Head Coach Steve Walker said the Rainbow Wahine had the advantage of a balanced lineup and “controlled game” entering the contest.
“Hawaii has the local players that have grown up playing sand volleyball,” Walker said. “They have been a real asset to the program, and their ability to predict what we were doing and us not being as deceptive as we could have, made for a difficult match at times.”
Freshman Sarah Seiber dives fror the ball during Arizona's 5-0 victory against Tulane in the the Wildcat Spring Challenge on March 15 at Jimenez Field.
The lone bright spot in the loss came when Arizona junior Taylor Arizobal, coming off of a lower extremity injury, returned to the lineup in the No. 4 position with junior Ronni Lewis. Arizobal and Lewis did lose 21-17, 21-16 in both matches played, but Walker was pleased with Arizobal’s performance.
“Despite having limited practice time with Ronni in the offseason, she fared fairly well on the first road trip against two nationally-ranked teams,” Walker said. “Taylor was pressed into playing with only one week of practice and didn’t have the benefit of playing in the home matches earlier on in the season.”
Arizona did not fair much better against the Trojans as they lost the match 4-1.
“USC was little bit more physical as they had a bigger blocker,” Walker said. “We didn’t adjust as they had a better defender behind the blocker that made plays.”
Junior Rachel Rhoades and freshman Sarah Seiber of Arizona picked up the lone 21-12, 13-21, 15-7 victory against Eve Ettinger and Bria Russ.
Arizona got its first taste of pairs completion on Friday in the Jack in the Box Rainbow Wahine Spring Challenge. A total of 24 pairs from five different schools competed in eight different pools.
Only two of the five Arizona pairs advanced to the 16-team Gold Bracket (championship) the next day. The freshmen duo of McKenna Witt and Madison Witt was the first pair to advance after finishing 2-0 on the day and first-place in Pool H.
Arizona’s No. 1 team of juniors Madi Kingdon and Jane Croson was the other pair to advance, despite only going 1-1 in Pool D.
Brittany Tiegs and Karissa Cook of Hawaii defeated Kingdon and Croson in the round of 16, 21-12, 21-12.
However, the Witt twins would advance to the quarterfinals after defeating Amber Rolfzen and Kadie Rolfzen of Nebraska, 21-18, 21-17.
The twins would then lose 21-16, 21-13 against Tiegs and Cook and finish tied for fifth in the Wahine Spring Challenge.
Kingdon received the Aloha Spirit award.
Walker said he thought the pair’s outing was a great introduction of understanding how much longer the days will be when competing on a national level.
“We found out this weekend that playing back-to-back days is going to be far more volume than what we have been playing in terms of number of matches,” Walker said. “It taught us that we need to prepare ourselves better in between matches, as sometimes we did not do that well in this past tournament.”
While the Hawaii trip was a challenge for Arizona, the Wildcat Spring Challenge hosted by the Wildcats on March 14 and 15 was the complete opposite.
For the second straight weekend, Arizona defeated Arizona Christian 5-0 and did not lose a single set of games in their five matches.
Tulane (2-2) was supposed to provide a tougher challenge as the Green Wave was in its third season. But Arizona handled its opponent easily again with a 5-0 win.
Rhoades and Lewis earned honors for the All-Tournament Team.
—Follow Tyler Keckeisen @tyler_keckeisen