Nighthawk Beach, Dorado Beach and Panther Beach. There are now three new beaches in Arizona thanks to the foresight of the Amphitheater School District.
The AIA was the first high school organization in the nation to offer Beach Volleyball as a sport and that 2012 season was made up of only five teams but none of them were from Southern Arizona. Eight teams took part in 2013 and 12 teams made it to the state playoffs in 2014, still, no teams from the Tucson area.
Then, in 2016, Salpointe decided to take a dip and the Lancers finished with a runner-up finish in the Division I playoffs and Ironwood Ridge joined the Lancers in the playoffs last year. There was no turning back now.
Salpointe hosts matches at the Tucson Racquet Club and Ironwood Ridge used to play at Crossroads Park in Marana. Though playable, Crossroads was no more than regular sand one would find in a riverbed, but head coach Bill Lang had a plan and he found several allies in important positions, willing to listen.
“Amphitheater board members Jo Grant and Deanna Day made this possible, along with former Amphitheater director of interscholastics, Joe Paddock,” Lang said. “We were able to get the plans the University of Arizona used for their beach facility and this became a reality.”
Arizona hosts the annual Cat Box Classic on campus and most of the top teams from the state have taken part over the last two years. The four sand courts on the Ironwood Ridge campus not only mirror the high quality in construction, they also have 18 inches on world-class sand. It’s only a matter of time before the Nighthawks get to host the state championships – it is the best high school facility in the state after all.
Amphitheater and Canyon del Oro also sport four college-level courts which gives the Amphitheater District a total of 12 courts on the three beaches.
The three schools will take part in a tri-meet at Ironwood Ridge on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Starting at 4 p.m.
Former Nighthawk Michaela Christiaansen won an AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Team Championship in the spring of 2012 playing for Pepperdine.
Former Nighthawk Kennedy Kurtz is an All-Conference player at Sacramento State.
Former Nighthawk Jaclyn Inclan is a freshman blocker for the Wildcats.
Pusch Ridge indoor standout Summer McDonough has committed to Arizona.
Salpointe standout Peyton Lewis is committed to Pepperdine.
Salpointe standout Alex Parkhurst is committed to Arizona.
Former Salpointe standout Haley Howell plays for San Francisco.
Former Salpointe standout Carly Lowry plays for San Francisco.
Former Tucson High standout Summer Avery plays beach for San Jose State.
Former Amphitheater standout Taylor Lane played for Arizona.
Former Catalina standout Maddie Irwin is playing beach volleyball for New Mexico.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com