Opportunity knocks at Pac-12 Invitational

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Courtney Talak | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona sand volleyball player Taylor Arizobal (14) jumps to make a spike during Arizona's 4-1 win against New Mexico on April 11. Arizobal and the Wildcats hit the road to participate in the Pac-12 Team and Pairs Invitational this weekend.

Arizona sand volleyball is headed to Santa Monica, Calif., for two days of Pac-12 Invitational play. The Wildcats are the No. 3 seed in the weekend’s invitational and will face off against some of the most competitive teams in the nation, including the No. 2 seed UCLA and the undefeated No. 1 seed USC.

USC is currently ranked No. 1 in the AVCA Polls, UCLA is ranked No. 8 and Arizona (13-1) is holding onto its No. 10 spot.

Arizona sand volleyball coach Steve Walker said he’s looking forward to testing the team’s skills against top-flight talent, as well as having the opportunity to play on the beach again.

“We have a number of Southern California players that are happy to get over and play on the beach in Southern California, and I am, too,” Walker said. “More than anything else though, it’s the level of competition, playing within the conference and going out and seeing what we can do.”

As far as preparations for this weekend, the Wildcats have continued to work on their setting, but have mainly focused on just playing.

“We’ve just been playing a lot and getting the teams,” Taylor Arizobal said. “Steve has also been working us on our serving to make harder serves and getting the team more out of system.”

Arizobal also said Madi Kingdon will not be playing this weekend, which has forced Walker to refigure some of the teams. Kingdon had been paired with Kaitlyn Leary this season, and the duo has appeared in all but two matches as the Wildcats’ No. 1 team. Madison and McKenna Witt took over as the No. 1 team in the previous two matches.

McKenna Witt agreed with Walker that the most enticing part of this weekend’s play will be competing with some of the best teams in the nation. The Wildcats will first take on UCLA on Saturday in the Pac-12 Team Invitational beginning at 8 a.m.

Arizona’s top pairs will face USC, California, ASU and UCLA during the opening round of the Pac-12 Pairs Invitational that begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday. 

The Wildcats just defeated the ASU Sun Devils during last weekend’s ASU Sand Volleybal Challenge in Tempe. This will be Arizona’s first time playing Cal, UCLA and USC this season. The invitational is in bracket form, so Arizona could face USC during the Team Invitational as well.

Not only are the Wildcats preparing for this weekend, but also the week ahead. Arizona will host ASU in the last home match of the season on Wednesday. They are off to Boise, Idaho, shortly after that to take on Oregon and Boise State in the last matches of the season on April 24.

“I think we’re playing our best volleyball of the season,” Walker said. “I think the hay is in the barn, so to speak, whereas we don’t really have that many things that we need to improve on at this time of year. … It’s the right time to play a high number of matches, and I know our players are excited and ready for it.”

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