The No. 18 ASU volleyball team is home.
After a grueling nine-game road stretch that took them to three different states and pitted them against three ranked teams, the Sun Devils have finally returned for their first weekend at Wells Fargo Arena.
Along with the exhaustion of seemingly constant travel, the Sun Devils brought back some valuable souvenirs: an 8-1 record and a national ranking.
The Sun Devils cracked the top 25 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll Monday, coming in at No. 18. It is the program’s first national ranking since November 2002.
Head coach Jason Watson and his players, however, remain focused on the weekend ahead.
ASU hosts Cal Poly, Alabama State and ULM in the Marriott Invitational Friday in Tempe. With Pac-12 competition nearly upon the Sun Devils, this last non-conference tournament represents a calm before the storm.
Watson said he wants to ensure his players are locked in, a task that is much easier at home.
“(Being at home) gives us a little bit more time in the gym,” Watson said. “We’re not traveling on Thursday, so we get to work on some stuff.”
Despite an incredible weekend in Illinois, Watson listed several things that can be tightened up this weekend.
“Offensively, we want to get our middles a little bit more involved than we have,” Watson said. “That’s going to be this continual battle for us, to look for opportunities to get them involved, especially Mercedes (Binns).”
Watson also wants to see improvement from the service line.
“We need to kind of drive some serves at some people that we haven’t quite been doing as well as we’d like,” Watson said.
Another focus of practice this week is receiving the serve, something that is crucial to setting up the offense.
“Some people are hitting some seams at us that are pretty aggressive, and I don’t know if we’ve managed them as well,” Watson said.
The weekend starts with the Cal Poly Mustangs (4-5), who will have played a midweek game at Stanford before venturing to Tempe.
“They have some middles (blockers) that can go off one foot, and we certainly have trouble defending middles that can go fast off one foot behind the setter,” Watson said. “Those are some things that I think are going to really challenge us.”
Saturday afternoon features the battle between the ASUs, Arizona State University and Alabama State University (5-7).
That evening, the Sun Devils match up against the University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks (3-9), who will have played a midweek game at Grand Canyon University.
At press time, Watson and his staff had not yet reviewed film of these teams.
Nevertheless, freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey is excited for the opportunity to play in the friendly confines of Wells Fargo Arena.
“We’re very excited to bring it home finally,” Willey said. “We’ve been working so hard, and we’re excited to finally get ASU behind us and show them what we can do.”
Friday’s match against Cal Poly begins at 7:00 p.m. Saturday’s matches against Alabama State and ULM begin at 12:00 pm and 7:00 p.m., respectively.
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