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Beach Volleyball breakthrough: UT athletic’s newest addition

BY SYDNEY RHODES

The beach volleyball team kicked off their first season against Webber International University in Babson Park, Florida on Feb. 24. The women ended Dual one with a win and fell short in Dual two, playing a separate team, University of North Florida (UNF).

In the first dual the Spartans won 3-2. The first partners to play were junior Claire Blumenthal and junior Alexandra Misca. The Warriors defeated the pair in two close sets, 21-17 and 22-20. Following the loss, freshman Taylor George and junior Sarah Moore stole a point back, beating Webber 21-11 in the first set and 21-10 in the next.

“The most difficult thing about playing Webber yesterday was going onto the court with different weather conditions then were used to, and playing a team we have never seen before,” George said. “The best part of the day, aside from winning, was our whole team coming together and cheering for each pair.”

Throughout the rest of the first dual, graduate student Leigh Buttner and junior Gabbi Pacatte battled against the Warriors. The two won the first set in 21-18, but Webber was able to perform the next two sets, winning 21-19 and 15-3.

“I’ve played indoor volleyball at [UT] for four years and I came back to play beach volleyball for my fifth year of eligibility,” Buttner said. “This is my first season playing beach volleyball and so far I’ve learned how physically and mentally exhausting it can be compared to indoor volleyball. Considering beach volleyball is outdoors and only with one other person on the court with you, there’s a huge connection with you and your partner. I’ve learned I have to be constantly learn about my opponent each play and I can never take a single play off.”

As the Spartans progressed into the second and final dual of the day, they took on the UNF. The Ospreys were able to win the dual four games to one. George and Moore claimed the only win of the dual, after Webber had defeated them. They lost the first set with a score of 21-19, but were able to return to win the next two, 21-16 and 15-10.

As a freshman, George said she has had to learn how to bring an aggressive approach to the game, while also learning how to be the best teammate to her fellow players.

“My personal goals for the season are to become a better defender, more aggressive offender and encourage my teammate during each play,” George said. “Our teams goals are to push each other, support one another and do everything the right way, although it’s not always easy, and being extremely detail oriented in practice of course.”

Playing on the twos team, sophomore Nicole Dominguez and sophomore Katie McKiel battled in the fourth of the five games against UNF. They fell short ending in a score of 21-17 and 21-15.

Despite the lose against UNF, UT was able to take the win in the first dual against Webber. The women begin their season with a record of 1-1 and have high hopes of pushing forward from this tournament.

“There’s been so much growth already within the first month so for the season,” Buttner said. “I’d say a major goal is to continually learn and develop. This program is brand new and it’s already been such a transformation so to be able to see what this program will be like in five years will be really interesting.”

Today, March 1, UT will take on Morehead State for their first home game at 4 p.m.

Sydney Rhodes can be reached at sydney.rhodes@spartans.ut.edu 

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