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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


All eyes on NCAA Tournament for Sand Cats

Logan Cook

The beach volleyball season is just around the corner, and the Wildcats are paying more attention to their personal and team goals for the 2018 season.

The team’s ultimate goal is to end its season at the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship held annually in Gulf Shores, Alaska. The top team from six individual regions as well as two additional at-large teams qualify each year. Last year, the Wildcats fell short of qualifying, ranking ninth in the country.

“Without a doubt, I think that [qualifying for the NCAA Championship] is the driving force for the team,” head coach Steve Walker said. “To get there, you have to reach benchmarks along the way. You’ve got to do well in conference, you’ve got to do well against the teams on the eastern side of the country and you’ve got to do well against the teams in the west.” 

While the team’s players have their eyes set on Gulf Shores, they also recognize they need to focus on smaller wins and the immediate challenges before they can even begin to think about qualifying for the NCAA Championship.

“It’s important that we are coming out every day to practice with the right mindset to work as hard as we can and to focus on the little things, not just the big picture,” defender Mia Mason said. 

During practice, Walker placed a lot of focus and emphasis on technical skills, which the players said is helping build confidence in their skills as they prepare for competition.

“[Walker] has been really persistent in [working on] our serve-receive and siding out, so I think that’s going to help us succeed in a lot of games,” defender Olivia Hallaran said. “[Walker] is super technical, so we should be really strong in our skills.”

Another way the team wants to improve its performance from last season is as just that: a team. 

Even though the team is split into five pairs, players succeed and fail as an entire team, not as individuals or as partners. Gaining a sense of cohesiveness is a main focus this year.

“We really want to play together as a team because even though it’s kind of a separate sport, we have to still remember that it is a team sport and that all five teams all have to play for each other,” Hallaran said.

Just as the players have goals for the team, they also set personal goals for themselves, with many of them focused on improving their skills to become better, well-rounded players. 

“From last season, my setting can improve, along with my attacking and my shot choices. I want to improve on working with my teammates, working with what I have and taking advantage of the different things we can all bring to the table,” Mason said.

From personal goals to aspirations for the team, the players are preparing for the season by not selling themselves short. They are pushing themselves to becoming the best players they can be so that the team can succeed. The team’s determination this year hasn’t gone unnoticed by Walker.

“We’ve got a number of players that aren’t interested in rebuilding. We’ve got a number of players — fifth-year transfers, graduate transfers — that aren’t interested in rebuilding,” Walker said. “They want to make their mark, even though it’s a short amount of time that they’re going to be there. They want to leave a legacy. I think this group wants to be a team that I talk to future teams about, and our training signals to me that this group has got high aspirations.”

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