TUCSON, Ariz. – Head coach Steve Walker and the Arizona sand volleyball program announced its inaugural 2014 schedule on Thursday. The Wildcats will host four events at the newly constructed Sand Volleyball Courts at Jimenez Field.
“For a first year start-up program the schedule I created is very competitive and will immediately give us an idea of how we measure up against the rest of the competition across the country,” Walker said. “The teams that stand out right away are the AVCA’s defending national team champions Long Beach State, Pac-12 odds on favorite USC (who captured the Pairs championship last May at the AVCA Sand Championships), Hawaii and Midwest power Nebraska.”
Fans will get a chance to see the Wildcats in action early on with three straight home events. The first chance for fans to see the Cats in their new facility will be on Saturday, March 1 for the Red-Blue Exhibition.
Arizona will then officially open the 2014 season by hosting the Arizona Invitational on March 7-8. The Wildcats will have Arizona State, Grand Canyon and Arizona Christian in for the two-day event. UA will open the season against Arizona Christian on Friday, March 7 at 2 p.m. Then, the Cats will face Grand Canyon the following day at 10 a.m. before closing the tournament against rival Arizona State for a Territorial Cup Series point at 4 p.m.
The very next weekend Arizona will host the Wildcat Spring Challenge on March 14-15. The Cats will host Arizona State, Tulane and Arizona Christian in the event. The U of A will only play twice on the weekend as it will face Arizona Christian on Friday at 2 p.m. and Tulane on Saturday at noon.
The Wildcats have competed against many of the in-state opponents in the past. Last spring, the indoor volleyball team participated in the 2013 Collegiate Beach Championships just outside of Phoenix at Victory Lanes. In that event, the Wildcats took on teams from ASU, Grand Canyon and Arizona Christian.
“We will get the opportunity to see the other programs in our home state very early on and based on last spring’s friendly exhibition in April of 2013, we know those schools can play high level sand volleyball,” Walker said. “Tulane will attend one of our early home events in our new facility and should give us a great idea of how volleyball is being played in the Southeast region of the country. They were a team many coaches across the nation felt should have represented the Southeast region with an at-large bid to the championships.”
The Wildcats will hit the road for the first time the weekend of March 19 as they travel to the Hawaiian Islands. Arizona will face host Hawaii and USC with Nebraska also at the event. The same teams will play for a pairs championship on March 21 and then play a four-team bracket to determine a team champion on March 22.
Arizona will remain on the road for the next several weeks as it takes on Nebraska and Grand Canyon in Phoenix on March 28. Similar to the event in Hawaii, the teams will also play for a pairs championship the following day.
The following weekend, the Wildcats will travel to Irvine, Calif. for a single-day matchup with Irvine Valley College and reigning AVCA national team champions Long Beach State. In addition to its national championship last year, LBSU also made the finals in the inaugural championship in 2012, where it fell to champion Pepperdine.
One week later, Arizona will travel to Hermosa Beach, Calif. for the two-day USA Volleyball Invitational.
The Wildcats will then play in the first-ever coach-sponsored Pac-12 Invitational (April 19-20). The two-day affair will crown a league champion and a pairs champion in Santa Monica, Calif. The Pac-12 event is unofficial and will not grant the winner an automatic berth into the AVCA Sand Volleyball Championship until the 2015 season.
The Wildcats will close the regular season with a dual event at Arizona State on Thursday, April 24 before finally returning home for a match with USC on Saturday, April 26 at 1 p.m.
The AVCA Sand Volleyball Championship will conclude the season from May 2-4 in Gulf Shores, Ala. The 2014 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championship will consist of both a Team Championship (which will include the top four NCAA women's sand teams) and a Pairs Championship (which will consist of the top 16 collegiate doubles teams). Invitations to participate will be based on 2014 season results and tournament selections will be made by a committee. In addition to Long Beach State winning the team title last year, a pair from USC earned the Pairs Championship.
“Something that might not stand out when reading the schedule is our athletic department’s commitment to sand volleyball,” Walker added. “I say that because we will be fortunate enough to travel to the beautiful islands of Hawaii for the program’s first ever road trip. An experience many, many collegiate athletes never get to have and we get that our third weekend into competition. Our student-athletes and staff look forward to that event along with getting the season’s first serve up and competition underway. It’s been a long time coming for a lot of people involved in getting this program up and running.”
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat sand volleyball, visit ArizonaWildcats.com.