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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Sand volleyball season a major success

Arizona+sand+volleyball+player+Kaitlyn+Leary+%2813%29+practices+spikes+while+partner+Madi+Kingdon+%2845%29+looks+on+during+Arizonas+4-1+win+against+ASU+at+Jimenez+Field+on+April+22.+Leary+and+the+Wildcats+improved+greatly+as+a+team+from+2014+to+2015.

Arizona sand volleyball player Kaitlyn Leary (13) practices spikes while partner Madi Kingdon (45) looks on during Arizona’s 4-1 win against ASU at Jimenez Field on April 22. Leary and the Wildcats improved greatly as a team from 2014 to 2015.

Arizona sand volleyball’s second regular season has come to a close. The team played its final matches last Friday in Boise, Idaho, and swept Oregon and Boise State with 5-0 wins.

The Wildcats end their season with an 18-3 record, which is a 10-win improvement over last year.

Arizona sand volleyball coach Steve Walker said this team will be one that future teams will be compared to, and with good reason.

Arizona was ranked 16th during preseason in the inaugural DiG Magazine sand polls and climbed from unranked to No. 10 in the AVCA poll.

The Wildcats started the season 7-0 by beating TCU, LSU, Tulane, Cal Poly, Irvine Valley College, Concordia University and Boise State before their first loss in a hard-fought battle with Nebraska during the Wildcat Spring Challenge.

After the loss, Walker said it was a reflection of Arizona playing Nebraska’s game and style of volleyball.

The Wildcats went on to win seven more matches in a row before suffering their only other two losses of the season in duels with No. 1 ranked USC during the Pac-12 Team Invitational. Arizona placed second in the tournament, despite its defeat by USC.

A big contributor to the Wildcats’ success this season was the number of athletes that were dedicated to only sand. Last season, only four athletes spent their entire year focused on sand, while the rest of the roster was filled with dual athletes who played indoor volleyball during the fall semester.

The team had 10 sand-only players this season.

“Having more people in the fall has helped in the spring.” Arizona sophomore Sarah Seiber said. “Now that we’ve had 10 just-sand girls in the fall, we’ve all gotten better and had the time to work on our skills.”

Standouts this season include senior pair Madi Kingdon and Kaitlyn Leary, who made up Arizona’s No. 1 team for most of the season. The duo ended the regular season with a 19-1 record and won the Cal Poly Pairs Tournament.

Another impressive pair for Arizona this season was the sophomore duo made up of twins Madison and McKenna Witt. They played most of the season as Arizona’s No. 2 team but appeared in 12 matches as the No. 1 team for the Wildcats.

The Witt sisters were runners-up to Kingdon and Leary in the Cal Poly Pairs Tournament but represented Arizona during the Pac-12 Pairs Invitational and took home second place after falling to USC. The pair’s regular season record was 24-4.

Both of these pairs are headed to Gulf Shores, Ala., to represent Arizona for the first time in the AVCA Sand Volleyball National Championship. The championship will run from Friday to Sunday and will end with the crowning of the top pair in the nation.

Kingdon, Leary and the Witt sisters said they are all excited for the opportunity to represent Arizona in a national competition.

“We’re really excited for the opportunity to be able to compete for our school, and we can’t wait to go out there and show everybody everything that we’ve been working on,” McKenna Witt said.

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Follow Jordyn Owen on Twitter.

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