Wildcats beach volleyball sweeps Northern California schools
Arizona's Madison Witt spikes the ball down past California, on Saturday April 22nd.
Arizona Beach Volleyball concluded its regular season at home this weekend in a sweep of the Pac-12’s Northern California schools.
In Friday night’s match against Stanford, No. 8 Arizona stole a 3-2 win in the third set of their second seed’s game, which needed 10 extra points to be determined.
Two hours into the match, four of the five pairs ended their nights at a 2-2 tie with the Cardinal. Arizona’s No. 2 pair of Olivia Hallaran and Olivia Macdonald were the last ones standing.
After a loss in the first set, the Olivias came back to force a third. In the 15 point set, the Cardinal and Wildcats traded points up to a tie at 19-19. A Hallaran swing through the block put Arizona ahead 20-19 and energized the crowd, even earning an enthusiastic punch in the air by head coach Steve Walker. Then, the pair scored again in the ensuing rally to win 21-19, giving Arizona the match.
“They didn’t necessarily start as well as they would have liked, but they were able to make some adjustments,” Walker said about Hallaran and Macdonald. “Then to extend the tie and play with that kind of composure, in a tight match that dictates the winner– it’s going to dictate the outcome– they just did a great job of steadying out.”
Saturday was the last home match of the Wildcats’ regular season. The true seniors Madison and Mckenna Witt, and the fifth year senior, Halli Amaro, were presented bouquets of flowers larger than themselves and framed jerseys.
So, how did the seniors fair in their weekend of recognition?
Arizona’s No. 1 pair, the Witts (17-6 overall), showed jubilance throughout their dominance of the Cardinal en route to a 21-11,21-18 victory Friday. Then, on Saturday, eased over Cal 21-12, 12-10, to complete their weekend with the sweep.
“I’ve been dreaming about this day for basically the last four years,” Mckenna Witt said. “Being here today it’s extremely emotional, but it’s bittersweet too. We’ve kinda grown up in this program, so it’s something we get to take with us for the rest of our lives.”
While the Witts stand as Arizona’s top duo, Amaro and her partner, Natalie Anselmo, came into the weekend leading the Wildcats this season with a 16-5 record in the fifth seed. On Friday, they fought to a 21-14, 28-26 victory against Stanford. Then, Cal failed to challenge the dominating duo on Saturday, so Amaro and Anselmo went on to a 21-17, 21-15 win, and their 18th of the season.
“I’m really stoked for Madison and Mckenna to be the first class to get out of here,” Amaro, who played four years indoor and her fifth on the sand, said. “They led a huge legacy in this program from start to finish. It’ll be exciting to be a part of their true graduation.”
The three seniors all went undefeated in their final matches of the regular season to help the team to a 5-0 win over the Cal Golden Bears.
“I’m especially happy for the seniors,” Walker said. “Halli and the Witt twins mean so much to me for what they’ve done for this institution, the athletics department, indoor and beach programs. It really just can’t be measured what they’ve done for us. I’m so proud of those guys and really happy to send them off with a couple wins.”
However, the seniors don’t have to kiss Bear Down Beach goodbye just yet. Next week, Arizona hosts a crucial PAC-12 Championship Tournament, where the seniors will try to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship one last time.
The NCAA Championship only takes three seeds from the west, three from the east and two at large bids. Last season, the Wildcats received an at large bid, but with a 15-8 record this year, it may not be within Arizona’s reach.
“At this point, we’re going to have to perform exceptionally well at the conference tournament, and potentially win it, to get into that,” Walker explained. “We have the possibility to do that and the players to get that done.”
The PAC-12 Tournament will bring nine teams to Tucson on Thursday, April, 27th for 12 matches. Play will continue through Saturday the 29th, when the champion will be decided.
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