Volleyball seeks redemption vs. CU, Utah

Freshman outside hitter Macey Gardner bumps up the ball back into play, during the Sun Devils’ 3-0 win over California on Sept. 28. (Photo by Kyle Newman)

As the season winds down, only four opportunities remain for the ASU volleyball team to bolster its chance at making the NCAA tournament.

They have two more chances this weekend in Tempe when the Sun Devils (17-12, 6-10 Pac-12) play host to Colorado on Friday and Utah on Sunday.

Last weekend, the offense played well in Oregon, and ASU’s focus in practice this week has been making sure that the offense performs well again this weekend.

“A lot of (practice) has to do with serve-receive,” coach Jason Watson said. “We’re trying to make sure that we’re passing the ball well so that we can do some things offensively.”

The schedule leans in ASU’s favor, as three of the Sun Devils’ final four games come at home. All of ASU’s upcoming opponents are unranked teams.

This weekend will also be the first that the Sun Devils haven’t faced at least one ranked team in a series since their last meeting with both Colorado (14-14, 4-12 Pac-12) and Utah (12-17, 3-13 Pac-12) on the road.

Utah comes into town in the middle of a five-game losing streak and being one game above last place in the Pac-12. It’s been a tough year for the Utes, who in their second year in the conference.

Even with their lowly record, the Utes still have been competitive in games and nearly upset No. 5 UCLA and No. 6 Washington during their losing streak.

What keeps Utah competitive in games has been its ability to disrupt opposing hitters. The Utes are No. 2 in the Pac-12 in blocks with 3.00 per set. Leading the charge is sophomore middle blocker Bailey Bateman, who ranks second in the conference in blocks with 1.54.

“We’re going to focus on their tendencies, watch film tomorrow and lock in on what we need to do offensively and defensively,” freshman outside hitter Macey Gardner said.

Sunday evening’s game between ASU and Colorado will be a rematch of the game earlier in the season, when the Buffaloes came back to defeat the Sun Devils after initially going down two sets to none in the game.

“We’re definitely mindful of not making the same mistakes,” freshman setter Allison Palmer said. “We’re not dwelling on it and we don’t have that aggression of, ‘Oh, we lost. We have to beat them now.’ We know what we have to do and we’re a different team, we’re a better team.”

Also in their second season as a Pac-12 member, the Buffaloes have continued to experience the tough life of being a member of a prestigious conference. Colorado has dropped seven of its last eight games, all being sweeps.

The Buffaloes’ struggles can be linked to their weak offense. As a team, Colorado ranks last in the Pac-12 in assists (10.42), hitting percentage (.161) and kills (11.33). Although they rank last as a team in assists, freshman setter Nicole Edelman has performed well for the Buffaloes, ranking No. 8 in the conference in assists per set (8.87).

“We need to manage the ball well, we need to pass well and then get our offense going, get our middles going,” Watson said. “I think if we do some of that, we’ve got a chance.”

 

Reach the reporter at talopez3@asu.edu