ACP Beach Volleyball Season Review

The Lady Knights beach volleyball team is yet to miss the state tournament in its two-year history.

From+left+to+right%3A+Coach+Dillon+Cox%2C+Tendall+Weigand%2C+Krista+Rowan%2C+Daria+Sukhareva%2C+Emma+Byrd%2C+Hailey+Blixt%2C+Kennedy+Orr%2C+Kelsey+Burns%2C+Lucy+Hoffman%2C+Naomi+Sano%2C+Elise+Jimenez%0ANot+pictured%3A+Manager+Allison+Gruwell
From left to right: Coach Dillon Cox, Tendall Weigand, Krista Rowan, Daria Sukhareva, Emma Byrd, Hailey Blixt, Kennedy Orr, Kelsey Burns, Lucy Hoffman, Naomi Sano, Elise Jimenez
Not pictured: Manager Allison Gruwell

From left to right: Coach Dillon Cox, Tendall Weigand, Krista Rowan, Daria Sukhareva, Emma Byrd, Hailey Blixt, Kennedy Orr, Kelsey Burns, Lucy Hoffman, Naomi Sano, Elise Jimenez Not pictured: Manager Allison Gruwell

From left to right: Coach Dillon Cox, Tendall Weigand, Krista Rowan, Daria Sukhareva, Emma Byrd, Hailey Blixt, Kennedy Orr, Kelsey Burns, Lucy Hoffman, Naomi Sano, Elise Jimenez Not pictured: Manager Allison Gruwell

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Beach volleyball in Arizona may not be as picturesque as it is on the coasts of San Diego, but with a whole bunch of bulldozers we can play here in the desert as well. The year 2018 was the second year of beach volleyball as an AIA-sanctioned sport, and hence was ACP’s second year of having a sand program.

The Lady Knights’ first year with a beach volleyball program back in 2017 was successful, especially considering the experience level of the team. From sophomore Krista Rowan:

“We had a lot more inexperience and learning players last year. It was more focused on our fundamentals and helping indoor volleyball players adapt and learn new techniques and strategies on the sand.”

Despite the lack of beach experience, the team had a solid year, finishing with a 6-6 record, 7th out of 13 teams. In the state tournament, ACP ran into a buzzsaw in 2-seed Trivium Prep and fell 5-0. This year, the ladies were hungry for success.

“We held high expectations. We were much more experienced, with a young team of players and a range of talent. We knew this would be a season of growth and firsts.”

After dropping the first match of the year to Trivium Prep 3-2, the Lady Knights rattled off nine victories in a row, eight of which were won by either a 4-1 or 5-0 margin.

“It was a very strong start to the season, sweeping schools like Casteel and Scottsdale Prep who swept us last year.”

Krista Rowan and Kelsey Burns watch on as teammates scrimmage in preparation for a match the following day against Casteel. The Knights would go on to sweep the Colts 5-0.
Photo via Lucy Hoffman.

Following a couple of tough 2-3 losses to close the year, the ladies were 9-3 on the season and ranked fifth in Division II as they headed into the state tournament to take on Chandler Prep. In the first two sets, Elise Jimenez and Tendall Weigand played the game of their lives to defeat Chandler Prep’s number five pair, while the number four pairing lost in 3 games to make the score 1-1 heading into the #2 and #3 pairs. The Knights and Trojans split again to make the score 2-2 heading into the final match, Krista Rowan and Kelsey Burns against Chandler Prep’s #1 pair. The Knights won the first set but dropped the last two to give Chandler Prep the win.

“The state tournament was very competitive,” said Krista. “Unfortunately, we fell short in the back and forth third set, putting an end to our team’s awesome season.”

To cap off the year, Krista Rowan and Daria Sukhareva competed in the pairs state championship as an at-large pair. They battled against Mohave’s pairing of Natasha and Maya Radic, winning the first set by a score of 21-7 but dropping the last two by two points a piece.

“Daria and I came out strong against the third-ranked Mohave team, not knowing what to expect since we didn’t face this team in the regular season,” explained Krista. “We battled point-for-point in the third set, coming up short 13-15, with the 105 degree weather definitely taking a toll on us. It was a great experience for the two of us, and we can’t wait to see what next season has in store.”

Despite the fact that they will be losing head coach Dillon Cox next season, the Knights expect to take a big leap forward next season and win the program’s first state tournament game.

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