You won’t hear it from head coach Jason Watson, but the ASU volleyball team is perfect.
“We are a significant work in progress, and weekends like this one give us an idea of the areas that we really need to upgrade,” Watson said in a post-game interview Saturday.
The stats say otherwise: In addition to starting 6-0, the Sun Devils have yet to lose a set.
To put that into perspective, No. 1 USC lost two sets this weekend. No. 3 Penn State lost three sets this weekend. Even reigning national champion No. 2 Texas lost three sets this weekend.
Not the Sun Devils.
It’s a feat last accomplished at ASU by head coach Patti Snyder-Park in 1995. Her team went to the Sweet 16.
Coach Watson, in his sixth year at ASU, kept things in perspective.
“We’re two weekends into this, and we’ve got an enormous amount of volleyball left to be played,” Watson said.
This past weekend, the Sun Devils swept sets against Seattle, UNLV and Gonzaga to win the Gonzaga Invitational in Spokane, Wash, their second tournament win in as many weeks.
The weekend wasn’t a cakewalk though; both Seattle and Gonzaga threatened to end the set streak in the second set.
However, ASU averted five total set points and won both sets 28-26.
Aside from those two sets, though, the Sun Devils have been blowing teams out of the water.
ASU’s average margin of victory is nearly eight points per set, mostly because of the offensive prowess of sophomore outside hitter and Pac-12 offensive player of the week Macey Gardner.
“She had another great weekend against some teams that are maybe a little bit better prepared for her than they were last weekend,” Watson said.
If they were more prepared, it wasn’t reflected in the numbers. Gardner totaled 63 kills this weekend, 40 more than any other teammate and 19 more than she had in the La Quinta tournament two weeks ago.
Freshman outside hitter BreElle Bailey, who hit .492 in her first three games as a Sun Devil, was much less productive in the Gonzaga Tournament, hitting just .241.
The Sun Devils passed their second road test Saturday at Gonzaga, when Bulldog fans were present and loud, especially during the tense second set.
“We need to be comfortable in these type of environments,” Watson said. “We’re learning how to play the game, but we’re also learning how to play with these distractions.”
Even in the road environment, the Sun Devils found ways to stifle opposing offenses. Opponents in the Gonzaga Invitational hit just .099 against ASU.
The season continues Thursday evening at the Illini Classic in Champaign, Ill. The Sun Devils face Youngstown State, No. 14 Illinois and reigning national champion No. 2 Texas.
“Life’s going to be a little bit more difficult for us next weekend at Illinois,” Watson said.
-Gardner was named the Gonzaga Invitational Most Valuable Player and sophomore setter Bianca Arellano, who racked up 108 assists, made the All-Tournament team.
-Sophomore setter Allison Palmer, who played with USA Volleyball in the summer, has not played in 2013. Watson said they have yet to decide whether to redshirt her or not.
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