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The Daily Wildcat

 

Beach volleyball opens home slate with trio of matches

Arizonas+Olivia+Hallaran+%2832%29+about+to+spike+the+ball+during+the+UA-ASU+Beach+Volleyball+game+on+saturday%2C+March+4.
Michelle Tomaszkowicz

Arizona’s Olivia Hallaran (32) about to spike the ball during the UA-ASU Beach Volleyball game on saturday, March 4.

“Bear Down Beach” saw its first action of the season this weekend when Arizona beach volleyball hosted Jacksonville, No. 5 Hawaii and Arizona State in the Arizona Invitational. In two days of competitive play, Arizona dropped two of its three matches.

The tournament began Friday afternoon when the Wildcats faced Jacksonville and Hawaii.

No. 6 Arizona handled Jacksonville from top to bottom. Only the Wildcat’s team of Olivia Macdonald and Olivia Hallaran needed an extra set to put away the Dolphins. Macdonald and Hallaran dropped their first set 21-16, but made a comeback in the second to force a third set. With a 15-11 victory, Macdonald and Hallaran helped Arizona open the season with a sweep.

The Wildcats started strong start against Jacksonville, but things fell apart quickly when they faced No. 5 Hawaii. Three of Arizona’s pairs took the Rainbow Warriors to a third set, but each found themselves on the losing end of the extra play.

All eyes were on the No. 1 matchup of Arizona’s Madison and McKenna Witt and Hawaii’s Mikayla Tucker and Morgan Martin Friday night. In the last match of the evening, the top pairs dueled through three sets of back and forth play.

“We’ve been waiting for this day to come for so long,” McKenna Witt said. “I still get nervous I still get super excited to play. I get this adrenaline rush every single game.”

Ultimately, the Witts were outlasted by Hawaii in the third set losing 15-11. With the defeat, Arizona was swept by the Rainbow Warriors.

“When you play a team like Hawaii who can put pressure on you and who has a good deal of experience, sometimes the game is not as fluid as you like,” Arizona head coach Steve Walker said about his team’s performance on Friday. “We did a lot of things really well over the course of the evening, we just didn’t execute as well as we’d like.”

The Wildcats mainly struggled because of an injury that occurred in practice during the week. Sophomore Mia Mason will be out for about a week, according to Walker. Without Mason, some of the Wildcats had to change partners and establish new chemistry.

“We were forced to play three different lineups that we didn’t expect to play this week,” Walker said. “We’re not going to use that as an excuse because we train universally, but under stressful situations, those pairs weren’t put through that in practice and it was obvious.”

Arizona was hoping for better success on the second day of play when they took on Arizona State, but in another third set loss by the Witts, ASU was awarded the match win over Arizona 3-2.

“We didn’t necessarily get the outcome that we wanted, but we are still working on so many things in our game,” Witt said. “It’s not going stop us one bit.”

While the weekend didn’t go Arizona’s way, freshman Brooke Burling enjoyed her first opportunity to play at the collegiate level.

“It was amazing,” Burling said. “The atmosphere was great. I was able to cheer on my teammates and have them be there for me. I love being out here.”

Burling played on the No. 2 team with Kendra Dahlke. The pair beat Jacksonville, but lost to Hawaii and ASU.

Arizona State finished the weekend with wins against Jacksonville and Arizona, while Hawaii swept the competition and Jacksonville went without a win.

“The rest of the country is getting a lot better,” Walker observed. “We’re going to have to train harder, be willing to work harder, push a lot harder.”

The Wildcats have dropped two consecutive matches against the Sun Devils, but will be looking for redemption next weekend when they face ASU in Tempe.


Follow Nikki Baim on Twitter


 

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