Nine sets. Three victories. One statement.
The Arizona State volleyball team isn’t messing around.
The Sun Devils (3-0) proved to the volleyball world that they mean business Saturday, sweeping both No. 24 Wichita State and North Dakota State to win the La Quinta Inn & Suites Invitational in Orem, Utah.
Wichita State, a Sweet 16 team in 2012, was the first test of the year for coach Jason Watson’s squad.
“It was our first big test against a team that’s had some success in the postseason,” Watson said. “It took us a little long to get going and once we got evened out I thought we played pretty efficient volleyball.”
After a close first set, Arizona State contained Wichita State’s powerful offense, limiting them to just nine and 16 points in the final two sets, respectively.
“We want to be this nice defensive team,” Watson said. “We want to kill a lot of balls and then work really hard to turn them into some points.”
But the match was all about the offense, as freshman outside hitter BreElle Bailey and sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner combined for 28 kills. Freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey tacked on nine kills in the best game of her young Sun Devil career.
“She maybe tried to be perfect against Utah Valley,” Watson said. “I thought she rebounded really quite nicely against Wichita State and we needed her to play well.”
Against North Dakota State, however, coach Watson went with junior outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner instead of Willey.
“We wanted to give Nora some time,” Watson said. “No dissatisfaction with Kizz(y) , we just thought it was a good opportunity for Nora to play and she played well.”
Despite receiving the same amount of playing time against North Dakota State, Bailey was much less effective.
“She just probably didn’t get the offensive distribution that she was getting against the other two (teams),” Watson said.
Therefore, sophomore setter Bianca Arellano went to Gardner time and time again, allowing her to rack up 19 kills.
“Macey kind of carried us,” Watson said. “She was hot and we kept feeding her the ball and she certainly carried us through game two where it was getting kind of close.”
The Pac-12 All-Star also boasted a .529 hitting percentage against North Dakota State, meaning she was much more effective with her touches, something she was unable to do in the first two games.
“Macey learned some lessons last year as a freshman that some of us are still learning in terms of how to prepare, how to compete, and how to be good over time,” Watson said.
Despite leading her team in aces Friday night with two, Arellano was less effective with her service against Wichita State, totaling three service errors.
On the whole, however, the Sun Devils served incredibly well this weekend, totaling fifteen aces and using other quality serves to create scoring.
“I thought in game two, our serving provided that opportunity for us,” Watson said. “It allowed us to create some point-scoring opportunities.”
The Sun Devils travel to Spokane, Wash. next weekend for the Gonzaga Invitational against Seattle, UNLV and Gonzaga.
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