Arizona sand volleyball: Walker hits the beach to build program

Newest UA sport will start play in spring of 2014
2013-05-31T00:00:00Z Arizona sand volleyball: Walker hits the beach to build programZack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 31, 2013 12:00 am  • 

As an assistant coach, Steve Walker used to spend most of his summer holed up in McKale Center, be it for summer workouts, or recruiting, for the UA's indoor volleyball team.

He still spends some time there, but this summer he's had a lot more beach time than in the past.

It is part of his new job description, after all.

"I've been fortunate to be on the beaches of California and Florida, plus Phoenix, recruiting," said Walker, the head coach of Arizona's new women's sand volleyball program. "I've really taken to this being an outdoor sport."

And, if the reception Walker has received is any indication, the city of Tucson - and recruits - has taken to it, too.

The addition of a sand volleyball program to UA athletics was announced on Jan. 15, and a lot has happened since then.

Here's a look at the progress of Arizona's newest program.

The roster

For the most part, Walker has a pretty good idea of what his roster will look like when the season starts next spring.

There will be "somewhere between six and nine" players coming over from the indoor squad, including Madi Kingdon, Ronni Lewis, Halli Amaro and Taylor Arizobal.

"We're all really pumped," Arizobal said. "Steve knew we wanted to play, so it was a good thing. It was definitely mutual."

Walker also announced his first official three-person recruiting class in April. It consists of Madison and McKenna Witt, twins coming from Glendale Mountain Ridge High School, and Allie Cook, a junior college transfer from Irvine (Calif.) Valley College.

Walker expects all three to make an immediate impact.

"I'm not familiar with how twins work," Walker said, with a laugh.

"But, I certainly like the idea of the two playing together. They'll be certainly on one of our teams that compete."

Cook, he said, "will provide experience right away. I look for her to be on one of our top teams for sure. She's outstanding, and volleyball runs in her family since her sister (Emily Cook) is a starter at Pepperdine."

The staff

He's still in the process of filling out his coaching staff, but Walker is excited for his latest addition - Claire D'Amore, who was hired as the program's first assistant coach on May 2.

Her official start date will be July 1.

"She's going to be a great addition," Walker said. "Not only from a recruiting standpoint - she had a good reach on both coast lines because she's so well connected - but her ability to build and develop players is really her strong suit."

D'Amore, a former standout at NAU, was a club program coach locally with Desert Sand Volleyball LLC, and previously was a professional beach volleyball player as well.

The location

The baseball team's move to Hi Corbett Field last year, and the football team's subsequent move of holding practices at Kindall/Sancet Stadium, opened up a spot for the sand volleyball team to call home, at least for the time being: the Jimenez Practice Facility.

Once construction on the Lowell-Stevens facility - football's north end zone renovation at Arizona Stadium - Walker thinks that attention will turn "toward construction and building our own facility."

"But, it (Jimenez) looks like it might be a nice home base for us."

Jimenez is located by the McKale Center ticket office and next to Kindall/Sancet Stadium.

"I'm happy it's not far like Hi Corbett," Arizobal said. "I'm happy it's really close, and it's going to be a cool court."

Contact reporter Zack Rosenblatt at or 573-4145. On Twitter @zackblatt

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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