Set by set, the ASU volleyball team is making history.
After sweeping sets against both UNLV and Gonzaga Saturday in the Gonzaga Invitational in Spokane, Wash., the Sun Devils improved to a perfect 6-0 and have yet to lose a single set.
Head coach Jason Watson continues to be impressed by the play of his very young volleyball team.
“They’re playing with a lot of poise and an enormous amount of confidence,” Watson said.
The last time ASU started 6-0 without dropping a set was in 1995, when head coach Patti Synder-Park led the Sun Devils to the Sweet 16.
Before this season even started, Watson said he believed a Sweet 16 appearance was within reach.
“That’s been the goal from the get-go,” Watson said. “We want to go to the tournament and we want to be there for a long time.”
The Sun Devils breezed past UNLV, winning 25-17, 25-15, 25-18 behind 22 kills from sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner.
Gonzaga, playing in front of a raucous home crowd, wouldn’t go down as easily. The Sun Devils, however, responded well, averting every set point.
“They understand the importance of each point when they’re down,” Watson said. “I think it creates a little different sense of urgency for them.”
The Bulldogs threatened to end the streak in the second set but failed to convert on two straight set points. Sophomore middle blocker Whitney Follette capitalized on the opportunities, responding with a pair of kills to keep the Sun Devils alive. Follette also served the final two points of the game.
“That game went long and we kind of were running out of subs so Whit(ney) had to go serve,” Watson said. “She hadn’t served very much and she was really good.”
A few minutes later, ASU would complete the comeback, en route to a 25-23, 28-26, 25-16 victory.
“The outcome of volleyball matches is comprised of effective good plays over time,” Watson said, “and so even when we’re in these battles we just keep making good, good plays.”
Gardner shouldered most of the offensive burden, recording 20 kills in 52 total attempts.
“She continues to just keep getting better and better and better,” Watson said.
Despite the high kill numbers, the Bulldogs still found ways to limit Gardner, which was reflected in a lower hitting percentage for the Pac-12 all-star.
One of coach Watson’s season objectives has been to play better on the road. The Sun Devils won just six games in enemy territory last year.
“We need to be a better road team,” Watson said. “In game two, it was tough. It was intimidating.”
Next up, the Sun Devils travel to Champaign, Ill., for the Illini Classic against Youngstown State, Illinois and reigning national champion, No. 6 Texas.
-Follette had a season-high eight kills, indicating that she is becoming more comfortable in the setter/hitter relationship with sophomore setter Bianca Arellano.
-Sophomore setter Allison Palmer has yet to play in a match this season.
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