Arizona beach volleyball struggles against nation's elite in Hawaii
Arizona blocker Tyler Spriggs (45) bumps the ball during the beach volleyball scrimmage on Feb. 24.
Not everyone went to Cabo over spring break and the Arizona beach volleyball spent their week off in Honolulu, HI, where they went 2-3 against some of the nation’s top competition.
No. 7 Arizona eased into the Outrigger Hawaii Invitational on Friday morning with a 3-2 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Wildcats’ top pair of Madison and McKenna Witt helped with a 21-16, 21-17 victory to start off a great weekend for themselves, in which the duo went 4-1 overall and dropped only two sets.
Following the battle with the Cornhuskers, the Wildcats found themselves in another competitive match with No. 4 Florida State. Finding themselves on the wrong side of St. Patrick’s Day luck this time, Arizona couldn’t contain the Seminoles and lost 3-2.
This season, Arizona has not performed well in decisive third sets. At home, the Witts forced a third set against Hawaii to only fall short in a 15-11 loss. They had the same misfortune against ASU in both matchups this season.
The inability to finish strong hurt the Wildcats again in Hawaii. Against Florida State, Arizona’s No. 4 pair of Hailey Devlin and Sam Manley couldn’t close out the third set and lost, which gave the Seminoles the match.
After going 1-1 on Friday, the Wildcats faced No. 1 USC and No. 5 Hawaii in a tough back-to-back matchup.
USC was unforgiving against Arizona. Four of Arizona’s pairs failed to score more than 15 points against the Trojans. Manley and Devlin were the only pair to push past the Trojans in two sets.
The Trojans took the match 4-1.
Four matches into the weekend may have fatigued any team, but the Wildcats came out ready for a fight against Hawaii. Two weeks ago, Hawaii swept Arizona in Tucson and gave the Wildcats a reminiscent feeling of when the Rainbow Warriors knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament last year.
With a chance to even up this year’s series, Arizona’s Halli Amaro and Brooke Burling competed through extra points with Hawaii’s Norene Iosia and Hannah Zalopany to earn the first win of the match.
In the top matchup of the Witts and Hawaii’s Morgan Martin and Mikayla Tucker, the Witts got their revenge. They blew past the Rainbow Warriors, only giving Hawaii six points in the first set and fifteen in the second.
Only one more pair needed to outlast the Rainbow Warriors, but the rest of the Wildcats couldn’t handle the Hawaiian courts, and lost. With a groundhog’s day type feeling, the Wildcats took their third consecutive loss to Hawaii 3-2.
The Wildcats concluded the tournament with a 5-0 sweep of Utah to make the 12-hour flight back to Tucson a little more bearable.
From the beaches of Hawaii, Arizona heads to the Texas plains for the TCU Tournament next week. The Wildcats play the hosts, TCU, and will be tested against ranked competition for sixth time this season when they take on No. 8 LSU.
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