There are many factors that go into selecting a university to attend after you graduate high school. Excellent academics, active nightlife, wonderful weather and top sports teams are just some of what future college students hope to have. Well, start looking forward to the beginning of the school year, because the University of Arizona has all four!
With Arizona being located in the Southwest, it is no secret that Tucson has some of the best weather in the country. Yeah, it gets hot sometimes, but that is better than walking to class in a snowstorm or sticky humidity. Since Tucson is a smaller city, it is tailor-made for its classification as a “college town.” With everything entertaining (restaurants, bars, shops) within walking distance from campus, you are sure to find something fun to do with friends.
What I really want to dive deep into is the UA’s sports teams. If you are a new student, you are arriving at the perfect time, because one can make the argument that last year was one of the best years many teams at the UA had. These teams are not only special for their winning records but their identity. They play as one unit that is unselfish, not caring who it is the spotlight shines on that night. Whether it is the four-year veteran or a freshman standout that takes control, nothing breaks these squads. They have love not only for the game and each other but for the university. These athletes are full of school spirit and are proud to wear the Arizona uniform. Here are some examples of the amazing teams here at Arizona.
Unless you were living under a rock last year, you are familiar with the story of the UA women’s basketball team. Once fading away into nonexistence after years of awful seasons, it seemed as if the program was all but lost. That changed when former Wildcat Adia Barnes came home to coach the team that gave her everything. Barnes did not find success immediately, but then she found her crown jewel in point guard Aari McDonald. Soon after the 16-year playoff drought ended, Arizona steamrolled every team to advance to their first national championship game, and McDonald was drafted third overall (highest draft pick in UA history) by the Atlanta Dream.
“It is more about us than it is about the opponent,” Barnes said in a past interview. “That’s how we’ve been all year, and it has worked pretty well.”
You were right coach; it did work out pretty well.
For a team that was not talked much about last year, the Arizona beach volleyball team should be all the talk this year. The SandCats finished with a better winning percentage (.786) and conference winning percentage (.818) than any other team at the UA. They did not lose an invitational all year and finished No. 10 in the nation, their highest finish since 2017. Most athletes let stats like that go to their heads, but not the SandCats. What mattered more than winning was each other. It was a team with a bond so strong nothing could break it. I should know, since I was the beat reporter who covered them all year. In her final match at home last year as a Wildcat, blocker Carly Lowry had this to say about the team.
“It is such a supportive program,” Lowry said in a past interview. “I have never felt more support than I have here. The culture here is positive and energetic, and I am proud to be ending my career here with my feet in the sand. This is a great team, and I have loved every second of it.”
Her partner Natalie Anselmo, who also graduated, had these kind words to say about Arizona.
“This program is my home,” Anselmo said in a past interview. “I have made a home with the people who have worked here and all my teammates. It is still a professional place because it fosters an environment where you can find your potential and grow as a person and a player, and it has been a really positive experience.”
This is without a doubt the most famous and prestigious program at the UA. Former head coach Mike Candrea had more regular season wins (1,674) and national championships (eight) than any other coach in school history. This team has players who are All-Americans, Pac-12 all-academics, batting champions, UA home run leaders and even Olympians. In fact, there are currently four of his former players in the Tokyo Olympics. Taylor McQuillin and Danielle O'Toole will compete with Team Mexico, Giulia Koutsoyanopulos will compete with Team Italy and Dejah Mulipola will compete with Team USA. Playing for this storied program is not easy, and every girl who steps on that field knows how special it is.
“Just being in a Wildcat uniform is something so special,” Mulipola said in a past interview. “It gives you goosebumps every time you put it on. I have chills right now just talking about it because I love being here, and I love the experience.”
There you have it. The athletes of these teams not only demonstrate excellence and talent but appreciation for the UA. Tucson loves these players, and the players love Tucson back. They are truly special, and whether you like sports or not, you have to see them in action.
Follow Sean Fagan on Twitter
Sean (he/him) is a business administration major from California. He enjoys playing video games and watching Disney+ in his free time.