Arizona beach volleyball moves on to final day of Pac-12 Championships

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In the first day of Pac-12 Tournament play, Arizona beach volleyball went 2-1 and dropped into the contender’s bracket after a loss to UCLA in the second round.

Still, head coach Steve Walker said the team is right where it needs to be.

Going into the weekend, Arizona knew that they would have to beat No. 1 USC or No. 2 UCLA to win the conference title. Following the early loss to UCLA, the Wildcats now have to beat both USC and avenge their loss to UCLA on Friday in order to become the Pac-12 champs—a daunting task.

The third-seeded Wildcats opened the tournament against sixth-seeded California. Arizona eased over the Golden Bears in a 5-0 sweep. Only their fifth seed, Halli Amaro and Natalie Anselmo, needed an extra set to get the win (17-21,21-17,15-11).

The Wildcats moved on to UCLA, who beat seventh-seed Washington 4-1, where the No. 1 pairs for each team had fans thinking they were seeing double vision. The Wildcats’ twins, Madison and Mckenna Witt, faced UCLA’s own twins, Nicole and Megan McNamara.

So, some advice for aspiring beach volleyball moms: Have twins.

Arizona’s twins, and the rest of the team, competed with UCLA in close matches, but the Bruins were too fast and read the Wildcats well. They took the match 4-1. Amaro and Anselmo won as the fifth pair (21-16, 25-23) to avoid the Bruin sweep.

“I think it’s all positive,” Walker said about the loss. “We played them much better than we did earlier in the year. On a few courts, we just didn’t finish. Overall, I liked our performance.”

This loss put Arizona in the contender’s bracket, so they would need to win two extra matches to get to the championship. Arizona began the extra play against Stanford. In a nail-biter that had two pairs going to third sets, they outlasted the Cardinal 3-2. It was the fourth team, Mia Mason and Brooke Burling, that decided the match in three sets (20-22, 12-12, 15-11).

In a high-pressure situation, the pair showed the Wildcats’ strong character.

“I love it,” Burling said about playing in the decisive match. “I love the pressure; I live for it.”

Her partner, Mason, saw the game a little differently.

“Honestly, I didn’t even know it was the deciding match,” Mason said. “It’s always fun to be the deciding match and win the game for our team.”

Only Arizona, Washington, UCLA and USC remain and will advance to the semifinals Friday. UCLA plays USC at 9 a.m. and Arizona squares off against Washington at 10 a.m.

After the Pac-12 champs are decided Friday, the pairs bracket will begin. Arizona’s No. 1 pair, Madison and McKenna Witt, and No. 2 pair, Olivia Hallaran and Olivia Macdonald, will compete at 5 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.  


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