Brooke Burling: Sand in her veins
Arizona beach volleyball sophomore Brooke Burling has been an important piece of the puzzle for the Sand Cats’ success over the past two years.
Burling had her eyes on Arizona’s beach volleyball team ever since the team’s inception six years ago when she was in the eighth grade. Her mother played collegiate volleyball, but after having kids, she decided to quit playing court volleyball and pick up beach volleyball back home in Chicago.
“It was always a treat for me and my sisters to go tag along and watch my mom play in the sand,” Burling said.
When Burling started to pick up the sport herself, she was introduced to court volleyball first. However, during the summers, Burling’s mother and her friends would teach her the sand version. She grew up playing indoor club volleyball, but enjoyed beach volleyball during the summers.
In eighth grade, Burling heard the news about Arizona’s formation of a beach volleyball program, and at that moment she had a newfound dream: to one day play for that program.
“When you see your college and get that feeling … that’s what I had, since the eighth grade,” Burling said.
Upon entering high school, Burling shifted her focus from indoor volleyball to beach volleyball, where she started to spend the majority of her time.
“During the summers, I would come out to California to train and play. That’s where [coach] Steve [Walker] found out about me,” Burling said.
Burling came to Tucson due to Walker’s recruitment efforts. Going over 1500 miles away from home can be a difficult adjustment to make for a college student-athlete. However, Burling adapted quickly and many of her closest friends are part of the beach volleyball team.
“My freshman year gave me three best friends, and my relationships with them have helped me become more successful,” Burling said.
She played her freshman season with current junior Mia Mason. Mason and Burling are partners again this season and Burling said she enjoys everything about it.
“I love playing with someone who wants to win as badly as I do,” Burling said.
This season, the ‘Cats are ranked in the top-25 in the country, which has Burling and the rest of the team more motivated than ever.
“This year, we really want to win those big games and we’re super excited to do so. I think that our team has some amazing talent that can perform under pressure. I know we can do it,” Burling said.
Being a sophomore on the team means something different for Burling. With age comes different expectations for a player. For Burling and her sophomore class, she says it is imperative that they develop their leadership skills now as they become upperclassman next year.
Last year served as a transition year for Burling. However, this year, she knows that her role on the team is different and she has accepted it. She is looking forward to helping carry the Sand Cats to the NCAA Tournament in Gulf Shores, Alabama this year as the No. 3 ranked pair on the team with Mason.
“We have the fire to win some huge games, and that is what is going to get us to NCAA’s this year,” Burling said.
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