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Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | Last updated: 9:33pm

Sand volleyball faces national powers in LA

Arizona sand volleyball will get a tough test in Los Angeles this weekend in the USA Volleyball Invitational Tournament.

The Wildcats will play three matches on Hermosa Beach on Saturday.

Arizona (6-5) first plays Pepperdine at 11 a.m., followed by Hawaii at 1 p.m. and Cal State Bakersfield at 3 p.m.

Arizona will compete in the Pairs Tournament all day on Sunday.

By Carlos Herrera / The Daily Wildcat
Junior Rachel Rhoades lost to Long Beach State 21-6 and 21-13 with partner Emily Kiser on Friday. The team will compete in the USA Invitational Tournament on Saturday and Sunday.

The Wildcats have lost five of their last six matches after starting the season 5-0, but junior Madi Kingdon said the losses are not affecting Arizona’s psyche.

“We are just trying have fun with it, as our coaches are doing everything they can to prepare us for upcoming events and tournaments,” Kingdon said. “I think if we consistently work hard, we will eventually get the results that we want in the end. It is just a learning process we have to realize.”

Arizona head coach Steve Walker added that his players can’t get down, as all their losses have been to established programs.

“We are well beyond the halfway mark of our inaugural season,” Walker said, “and given our overall experience, one has to feel we’ve performed very well against top competition.”

Pepperdine (10-1) won back-to-back national championships until its 2013 defeat to LBSU.

“The [Pepperdine] players do a great of keeping the ball low and in system,” Arizona junior Rachel Rhoades said. “They can see the whole court on defense when they keep the passes very low, and that makes it crucial for the side out aspect.”

Hawaii (13-2) beat Arizona 5-0 at home earlier in the season, while Cal State Bakersfield is 5-6.

Conditioning has been a problem for Arizona late in matches, as the Wildcats have been on the losing end several times when two or three points decide the third set of games. In preparation for the matches on Saturday, Kingdon said she believes the team has done a much better job of fighting toward the end.

“We got a little winded earlier in the season when the games were on the line,” Kingdon said. “We just need to fight through that pain, and that starts with practice — of gaining that experience of playing more games and sustaining longer rallies to keep that energy up.”

—Follow Tyler Keckeisen @tyler_keckeisen

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