Arizona sand volleyball closes inaugural season by beating Boise State
Initially, it did not look likely that Arizona sand volleyball would finish the season at home on a high note.
The Wildcats had trouble adjusting to windy conditions that caused them to start sluggishly.
However, after getting a few plays under their belt, the Wildcats were competitive in each match against No. 1 USC (22-1) and then later against Boise State (4-7).
Arizona (8-12) lost its third match of the season against the Trojans 5-0, but junior Rachel Rhoades said the squad is more confident now that it can play with the more prestigious programs heading into the off-season.
Arizona junior Madi Kingdon serves the ball during Arizona's 4-1 win over Boise State at the sand volleyball courts on Saturday. The Wildcats closed their first season with a win over the Broncos, despite windy conditions.
“The USC brand might be intimidating from the start,” Rhoades said, “but after seeing them so many times, we’re no longer scared of playing them anymore. We’re only a few mistakes away from pulling out a win.”
Arizona soundly beat Boise State 4-1. The lone pairs defeat came when Arizona had to forfeit at the No. 5 position.
“It was great that we ended the day on a positive note with a win,” Rhoades said. “The weather played a huge factor, though, as we had a rough time adjusting to the crazy wind from earlier in the day.”
Despite poor conditions, head coach Steve Walker said the Wildcats did a good job adjusting their shot-making, setting and attacking. The results might have been different if the players had had a different mindset after the USC defeat.
“We had one more game to end on a high note, and our players did not want to focus on the loss,” Rhoades said. “It was tough to move forward as our coach got on us, as he should, but we buckled down and bounced back by playing well.”
With Arizona’s inaugural season now behind it, many of the players will be encouraged by Walker to participate in “open event” matches to improve in their game.
“More exposure in sand conditions will benefit our players greatly, and that experience will get them more used to the different environments we played in this season,” Walker said. “The games are not club, but the competitive play will keep the players in shape and eating well.”
Arizona only managed to win three of its last 12 matches, but given it is the team’s first season, Walker said he was pleased with the progress his players made and the character they showed.
“We endured lots of trials and tribulations when scratching and crawling to get a win,” Walker said. “Effort was typically there, and even when the circumstances were not in our favor, we always kept competing with our skills getting a lot better each week.”
—Follow Tyler Keckeisen @tyler_keckeisen