Arizona sand volleyball gets first road test in California

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Savannah Douglas | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona sand volleyball coach Steve Walker chats with sisters Madison Witt (23) and McKenna Witt (21) during Arizona's 5-0 win against Tulane at Jimenez Field in March 2015.

Arizona sand volleyball travels to San Luis Obispo, Cali., this weekend to take on the Cal Poly Mustangs on Saturday and Sunday. Like the Wildcats, the Mustangs are also in their second season as a Division I program. This will be the first time that the Mustangs host a team on their home courts.

This weekend marks the first away match of the season for the Wildcats, who are hungry for their first road win of the season.

If last year is any indicator, though, this will be one tough match. The Wildcats pulled out a hard-earned win against the Mustangs last season, 3-2.

Going on the road is a battle for any team, but this was especially true for the Wildcats last year. After a five-match winning streak at home, the Wildcats went on the road for five-straight weeks where they struggled to bring home wins, only winning three of the remaining 15 matches. Arizona ultimately ended its season 8-12.

“We weren’t too accustomed to the conditions of playing on a beach,” Arizona head coach Steve Walker said. “But being a year in and recruiting some true beach players with backgrounds in playing on multiple surfaces, I think we’ll be just fine moving forward.”

The Wildcats are determined to continue the success this season that they built during the Arizona Invitational.

Walker said that the team tries to stay in its routine while traveling, and attempts to prepare for the type of surface it’ll be playing on as best as it can.

“There is nothing that can really replace experience, though, and we’ve got a little bit of that now.” Walker said.

One player, among a few others, that Walker said he can always rely on to be focused and composed is newcomer Kaitlyn Leary, who Walker said has outstanding mental habits.

“Playing in the Big-10 Conference has mentally prepared me for playing in this competitive conference.” Leary said. “The Big-10 and Pac-12 [Conference] are both very competitive conferences for volleyball.”

The full roster of strictly sand players, in addition to the focus that the team is working to gain, should aid the team in its competition on the road.

“Having more people in the fall has helped in the spring,” sophomore Sarah Seiber said. “Now that we’ve had 10 just sand girls in the fall, we’ve all gotten better and had the time to work on our skills.”

Some of the skills that the team has been working on in practice this week include setting and serving, as well continuing work on shots.

The Wildcats will get to test those skills on Saturday at 11 a.m. during the first day of their matchup against the Mustangs. The two teams will get to face off again on Sunday at 9 a.m. in the Cal Poly Pairs Tournament.

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