The three beach volleyball programs of northwest Tucson have faced divergent fates this season.
The Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks (7-3) and Canyon del Oro Dorados (5-5) find themselves in the playoff hunt in Divisions I and II, respectively. The Marana Tigers, who are in their first season of beach volleyball competition, are 1-9 in Division I. The state tournament kicks off Tuesday, April 23 in both divisions, with the top-16 teams in each division qualifying.
Ryan Call, who has led CDO’s beach volleyball program since its inception last year, believes local athletes are getting into the groove this year.
Call believes the programs at CDO, Ironwood Ridge and Marana will all take off in time, thanks to the glut of athletic talent in northwest Tucson.
“The sport of beach volleyball simply put is pure athletic. You must be good at each skill or it will get quickly exposed in a match,” Call said. “It’s special, because it’s still a team sport that highlights individual skills. It’s finesse, meets footwork meets power meets quickness meets anticipation. The ultimate athlete with nowhere to hide.”
Jennifer Ball, who coaches both the girls indoor and beach volleyball, believes the spring sport can boost her program’s status in the region.
Ball knew her team would struggle this year, given how little experience her players had in sand matches, but that the program will take off in due time.
She believes the future is bright for beach volleyball in Tucson, given the wealth of playoff-caliber teams in the region.
“Our athletes have grown so much as a result of this season,” Ball said. “This is the first year Marana has participated in beach volleyball so we knew we would face a lot of challenges. They have improved so much, and each match brings growth and development.”
Ball said she’s thrilled to see indoor players embrace the beach game so quickly, helping the game take off in the region.
“I am always impressed by athletes who are willing to try something new despite the difficulties they know they will encounter,” Ball said. “I love that so many athletes in Arizona are willing to go through that to establish beach volleyball here.”
The final week of the beach volleyball regular season takes place through Friday , April 12.
The Nighthawks play at Mountain Pointe Wednesday, April 10, before closing out the year with a home match against Desert Vista, on Friday.
The Dorados played Amphitheater Tuesday after deadline, and host Combs Friday to close out the regular season.
Marana’s debut season under Ball ends with road matches, against Maricopa after deadline on Tuesday and Corona del Sol on Friday, with matches tipping off at 4 p.m. each day.
The state playoffs for Divisions I and II in beach volleyball include seperate competitions for teams and pairs, with the former kicking off Tuesday, April 23, and the latter starting Monday, May 6 in Division I and May 7 for Division II.
The first two rounds of the team tournaments will be held at the higher-seeded team’s court before moving on to Casteel High School in Queen Creek, Arizona, for the seminfinals and finals in both divisions. All rounds of the pairs tournament will be held at the Queen Creek school.
The tournaments in each division will include the five automatic qualifiers that have won their respective regions, with 11 at-large berths handed ou in each division. The top pair from the top eight-ranked teams automatically qualifies for the pairs tournament, with the remaining eight pairs coming from a coaches seeding meeting. Those coaches will seed the top eight pairs in each of the two divisions.
Rankings and tournament information can be found on the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s website, azpreps365.com.