Arizona head coach Adia Barnes thought she could use the 11-day absence of games to practice and improve. While the Wildcats did some of that, they also dealt with yet more injuries that kept players out.
“It’s funny because we need to get healthy, but then we had people out with concussions,” Barnes said. “So it didn’t even really benefit us that much. We weren’t like full days of a ton of practices.”
In the future, Barnes will have one more player to help in those practices should injuries pop up again. Arizona track and field thrower Erin Tack was added to the roster as a walk-on on Saturday. It will give the team 11 available players when everyone is healthy. When counting Montaya Dew, who is out for the season rehabbing from knee surgery, the roster will consist of 12.
Tack is a native of Kelso, Wash. where she was the top-ranked javelin thrower in the state. She attended Kelso Senior High School where she also played basketball and volleyball.
Barnes started the season with 12 players on the roster. She lost Dew to injury then transfer Fanta Gassama left the program. That left the team with just 10 players. They have fought their way to a 6-1 record so far this year despite injuries and illnesses that had the Wildcats playing with only five in one exhibition.
Barnes has discussed the possibility of adding a walk-on in the past. She said that it is a lot to ask of a student who is not slated to get the kind of perks that walk-ons on men’s teams get. In the past, she has had varying degrees of success with walk-ons.
Arizona walk-on Lindsey Malecha was on the roster in 2017-18 and 2019-20. She was given a scholarship during the 2019-20 season to complete the integration but she graduated shortly after.
The Wildcats’ only walk-on since Malecha graduated was Lakin Gardiner. The 5-foot-11 guard from Spokane, Wash. was added to the roster late in the summer of 2020 but did not last for the entire 2020-21 season.
Tack will be filling a very special role. It’s a role that Barnes doesn’t think many young women are ready for or happy fulfilling. Tack may be an exception because she already has many of the benefits of being a student-athlete because of her experience on the track and field team.
“From my experience, I’ve had meetings, and it’s like they want to play, which I understand but that’s not the role that we need,” Barnes said. “So, typically, if it was a walk-on situation, it’s going to be a really good student-athlete, a really good teammate, someone with great body language, great attitude, energetic, and probably won’t have a whole lot of opportunity to play. May have some opportunity to practice, but may not sometimes. And I think that’s hard to ask someone given the time commitment.”