After weeks of training, practices and intrasquad scrimmages, the ASU volleyball team is almost prepared to showcase the product of its endeavors.
And, with just days remaining until the season opener, freshman outside hitter BreElle Bailey said the Sun Devils are itching for some live-action games.
“We’re so excited to just play,” Bailey said Monday before practice.
Their wish will be granted Friday at 7 p.m. in Orem, Utah, where they will take on Utah Valley in the opener of the La Quinta Inn & Suites Invitational. On Saturday, the Sun Devils will play Wichita State, who advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2012, and North Dakota State.
However, the eagerness is met with concern, as coach Jason Watson revealed before Monday’s practice that junior middle blocker Julia Katolik will undergo surgery on the knee she injured in practice last Wednesday.
“It’s incredibly disappointing,” Watson said. “She’s worked hard and this was a year where I could see her breaking in and getting some playing time.”
At 6 feet 4 inches, Katolik could have provided an incredible physical presence up front for the Sun Devils.
Watson now turns to youth to replace Katolik, as sophomore middle blockers Whitney Follette, Mercedes Binns and Andi Lowrance are expected to shoulder the blocking burden.
On the hitting side, Bailey appears to have cracked the starting rotation for the Sun Devils after a breakout performance at Saturday’s Maroon and Gold scrimmage.
Bailey possesses the poise and power to play consistently in 2013, mainly because of her mature on-court relationship with sophomore setter Allison Palmer.
“My set is a lot different than the other hitters, because I’m so tall,” Bailey said. “(Palmer) has to set me higher, and she’s adjusted very well to what I need.”
Watson said Bailey will likely see time on the right side opposite one of the setters, where she is most comfortable and that sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner prefers the left side.
“I think that’s where (Gardner) probably excels, and it’s where she’s most comfortable,” Watson said. “That’s not to say that she can’t hit on the right.”
Utah Valley represents the first hurdle for the Sun Devils, who fell to the Wolverines 25-19, 13-25, 28-26, 14-25, 15-13, in 2010. Seniors Bethany Jorgensen and Jenny Teslevich both saw limited time in the loss.
While Wichita State is the most difficult opponent of the weekend, Watson said he still anticipates an exciting first match against a quality opponent in Utah Valley.
“They’re pretty fast to the antennas, and I think they’ve got some middles that can go off one foot behind,” Watson said. “I think they’re a good team that has some similarities to what we’re trying to do, so it’s going to be a unique challenge.”
He said the team will find out how well prepared it is after this weekend’s games.
“(Wichita State is) going to be really fast and athletic, and (they) are going to control the ball well,” Watson said. “I think we’ve done a nice job getting our team ready, but we’ll find out Friday, I guess.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenMargiott.