By Jason A. Vrtis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The UA's men's club volleyball team came within one game of advancing to the sweet sixteen at the Club Nationals last weekend in Minneapolis.
The Wildcats qualified to play in the championship bracket by winning their opening round of pool play.
In their first match of the tournament, the Wildcats were pitted against then-9th-ranked Minnesota.
The Wildcats came into the tournament as the 36th seed and were major underdogs, but they ultimately prevailed in three tough games 15-7, 14-16, 15-13.
"They (Minnesota) took us for granted, and sat two of their starters against us," said assistant coach Skip Greenburgh.
Unexpectedly, the Wildcats dropped their next match against Northern Colorado 15-10, 15-8.
However, Arizona rebounded with a victory over Tennessee that placed them in the championship flight.
The Wildcats were placed in a tough pool with arch-rival Arizona State and Tieyko Marycrest of Davenport, Iowa.
Starting three freshmen throughout the tournament, the young and inexperienced Wildcats faced a Sun Devil team they had not beaten in four years.
The Wildcats ended up with a hard-fought 15-0, 12-15, 15-12 win.
"I never saw any doubt on their faces that they would lose. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain," Greenburgh said.
After the emotional win over ASU, the Wildcats
faced a Tieyko Marycrest team that was comprised of experienced foreign-exchange students. Arizona lost 15-10, 15-10 and ended up in a first-place tie with ASU and Tieyko.
All three squads finished with identical 1-1 records, and the two teams that would advance were determined by their game ratio percentages.
The Wildcats finished with the lowest percentage of the three and were sent packing.
"With a straight sweep over ASU or winning one game against Tieyko we would have advanced. We were very disappointed," said Wildcats head coach Keith Martin.
Arizona, the third-youngest team in the tournament, finished 18th overall out of 92 teams.
"Since we are so young we travelled a lot to gain experience, but we may have gained too much too soon," Martin said.
The Wildcats were led by outstanding individual performances by juniors Jared Sherril, Mark Pabst and freshman Mike Wagoner.
Sherril led the team in digs with 23 and finished third in kills with 30 for the tournament. Pabst and Wagoner each had 34 kills to pace the Wildcats.
Freshman Cody Sweet led the team in blocks with 23.
With no seniors on the team the UA will return all its players and hope to mold the valuable experience it gained this year into a better finish next season.
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