The week started bleak for the ASU volleyball team, as it needed to upset No. 5 Washington on the road plus defeat rival UA at home to keep its tournament hopes alive. By the end of Friday night, that task was accomplished.
The Sun Devils (20-13, 9-11 Pac-12) finished a huge task with an emotionally charged victory over UA (16-15, 8-12 Pac-12) on Friday night. Led by senior outside hitter Erica Wilson and her 17 kills, the Sun Devils captured a 3-1 victory in Tempe to end their season with 20 wins.
“We definitely wanted to beat them in ours,” Wilson said. “This shows how much we have to give and how much we’re determined to go to the tournament, and I think that definitely showed that we want to be in there.”
UA came out in the first set playing strong and it appeared as though the Wildcats were going to play spoiler on a big night for ASU. Hitting at a .462 percentage, the Wildcats raced out in front of the Sun Devils for a big lead. ASU was unable to get its offense going, hitting into nine errors in the set. The out-of-sync Sun Devil offense and efficient Wildcat offense gave way to a 25-13 UA set win.
The second set was a different story for ASU, which looked more like the team that upset Washington on Wednesday. Wilson, freshman middle blocker Whitney Follette and freshman outside hitter Macey Gardner all recorded five kills in the set to lead the Sun Devils to a 25-17 set victory.
Both teams came out of the break playing to grab a crucial one set lead. Neither team was able to get a comfortable lead, combing for 15 ties and seven lead changes in the set. Facing a 25-24 deficit, back-to-back kills from Wilson flipped the score in ASU’s favor. Junior middle blocker Alexis Pinson and setter Allison Palmer led the way to give the Sun Devils the huge 27-25 set win.
The fourth set was just as intense as the previous set, as both teams combined for 12 ties and six lead changes. The Wildcats hung with the Sun Devils for most of the set, until kills from Pinson and Wilson gave ASU a 21-18 lead. Forcing UA into attacking errors at the end, the Sun Devils took the set 25-19, notching a big win on different levels.
The win capped off a huge stretch for the Sun Devils, who needed three wins over the final three games to help boost their tournament chances.
“I think we’ve done a wonderful job,” ASU coach Jason Watson said. “I think this team has done a wonderful job, and I think they deserve to go to the (NCAA) tournament.”
ASU upsets No. 5 Washington
In a must-win road game for ASU volleyball, the Sun Devils upset the No. 5 Washington Huskies on Wednesday night.
The Sun Devils stunned the Huskies 3-1 to earn their 19th victory of the season in a must-win situation. It was the first road win over a ranked opponent since ASU upset No. 2 California back in 2010.
Led by freshman outside hitter Macey Gardner and her 19 kills, the Sun Devils got off to a hot start against the Huskies in the first set. With the game tied at eight apiece, a few Washington attacking errors and an ace from freshman setter Allison Palmer gave ASU 12-8. The Sun Devils never looked back and held off the Huskies en route to a 25-19 set victory.
The second set was a different story for both team as ASU converted only five kills in the set but committed six errors, lowering its hitting percentage to -0.029. The Huskies went on an eight-point run during the set to put the Sun Devils in a tough hole and eventually took the set 25-16.
Coming out the break, the Huskies were able to take a lead slim lead over the Sun Devils on senior outside hitter Kylin Muñoz’s kill. Washington held the lead for most of the set, until a block and a kill from Gardner on back-to-back points gave the lead back to ASU at 24-23. Sophomore outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner finished off the comeback and set 25-23.
With one set away from pulling of the huge upset, the Huskies refused to go down easy, exchanging leads with the Sun Devils for most of the set. The two teams battled until the game was tied at 20-20. ASU then went on a five-point run to end the game, which was finished on a kill by senior outside hitter Erica Wilson.
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