Arizona beach volleyball struggles against ranked opponents in Texas
Arizona's McKenna Witt blocks a spike during the UA-ASU Beach Volleyball game on Saturday, March 4.
Arizona beach volleyball continued to struggle against ranked teams on Saturday, losing 3-2 against No. 8 LSU. The Wildcats salvaged the weekend with a 4-1 victory over unranked TCU.
Last week in Hawaii, Arizona head coach Steve Walker began to make lineup adjustments by bringing his third pair of Olivia Macdonald and Olivia Hallaran up to the second team in place of Mia Mason and Kendra Dahlke.
With the same strategy for Saturday’s match against LSU, “the Olivias,” as the team denotes Macdonald and Hallaran, couldn’t compete at the higher level and were taken down by the Tigers in two sets.
As for the third pair, Mason and Dahlke took LSU’s Olivia Powers and Katie Lindelow to a third set, which could have potentially given Arizona a 3-2 match victory. The duo were crushed 15-6 in the third set, giving the Wildcats their fifth consecutive loss to ranked opposition.
Walker made another lineup change against TCU by dropping Mason and Dahlke to the fourth pair and moving Hailey Devlin and Sam Manley up to the No. 3 spot. Devlin and Manley proved themselves worthy of the higher rank when they shutdown TCU’s Jillian Bergeson and Avery Arellano in two sets with scores of 21-14 and 21-15.
While Arizona’s lineup is under construction for the second, third and fourth teams, the self-proclaimed “fearless” No. 1 pair of Madison and Mckenna Witt are starting the season off hot, with the potential to go deep in the NCAA Championship Tournament come May.
“We want to be known as a team who works hard and to be relentless and never leave half of our heart out there,” said McKenna Witt.
In Texas, the Witts had no problem putting away LSU and TCU’s best players, and breezed through the day in four sets.
While the middle pairs have yet to consistently achieve their roles in lineup, the Witts have been advising the younger players on getting through the midseason tests.
“We tell them it’s a grind and every day is hard and a challenge in itself,” said Madison Witt. “Come out with a good attitude, and an attitude to get 100 percent better, and eventually there will be progress. There’s hard days, but you always make it.”
With the additional six weeks of winter that Punxsutawney Phil gave us coming to a close last week, spring is blooming just in time for the Wildcat Spring Challenge.
Next week, Arizona will host New Mexico, Santa Clara, CSU Bakersfield and No. 12 Grand Canyon in four matches over two days and a chance to break their losing streak against ranked competition. The Spring Challenge begins on Friday, March 31, at 1 p.m. MST.
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