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Wednesday, July 30, 2014 | Last updated: 10:22pm

Sand volleyball plays rubber match against ASU



Arizona sand volleyball (7-10) has played its opponents tough in almost all of its matches this season, barring a few setbacks against upper level programs such as Hawaii, USC, Long Beach State and Pepperdine.

Head coach Steve Walker was well aware his team was at a disadvantage playing these experienced teams from the start. The Wildcats are in their first season of competition.

“We need to try to be realistic playing these top level programs,” Walker said, “as they have been established longer than us. We are disappointed, and the players aren’t content, but we will move forward and look to get better each week.”

Arizona has gone 2-10 after starting the season 5-0, but Walker wants his players to still have one goal in mind.

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By Savannah Douglas / The Daily Wildcat
Head coach Steve Walker leaves the sandpit after Arizona's 5-0 win against Tulane during the Wildcat Spring Challenge at the Arizona Sand Volleyball Courts on March 15.

“We are only looking to win,” Walker said. “As the goal every time when stepping on the court is to perform as well as we can. We want to take pride as a Pac-12 school … taking our best step forward [and] giving it our all.”

Now comes Arizona’s rival, ASU, a first-year program like the Wildcats, and there is no excuse this time around as they play at 3 p.m. today in Tempe, Ariz.

Arizona is 1-1 against the Sun Devils this season and recently lost a tough 3-2 match against ASU last Saturday at the Pac-12 Invitational in Los Angeles.

Arizona has experienced all kinds of conditions this season — deeper sand, windier conditions and brutal three-match stretches with minimal breaks in between matches — but junior Rachel Rhoades said the team is ready for any playing environment now after experiencing those uncomfortable settings before.

“We have great sand here to get a feel of what it is like to play on the tough surface,” Rhoades said. “With so many facilities now under our belt that provide us with many different types of sands, we don’t have any excuses. We should be able to move and pass the same way in any type of sand we play in.”

Walker said shot making was a big issue last weekend, and wants his players to be smarter on those opportunities this time around.

“We weren’t comfortable taking the appropriate risks,” Walker said, “and placing that ball at deeper or shallower portions of the court when necessary. We really want to reverse our mentality offensively and if it is there for the taking, we got to put the ball [at specific spots] with great confidence. When it’s not, let’s keep the ball in play and depend on our defense, which has improved over the course of the season.”

Taking the risks at the right time means Arizona stops being aggressive on their serves, however. Arizona has had issues finishing off games, and to counter the problem, Arizona sticks to one of its strengths of putting teams out of rhythm on defense.

“Our aggressive serving has been very consistent,” Rhoades said, “and with that, we should not be afraid or hold back to get aggressive toward the end of the game. The coaches have told us to just serve … as hard as we can.”


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