You can’t win them all, but the No. 18 Arizona State volleyball team would like to try.
The Sun Devils improved to 11-1 Saturday with straight sets victories over Alabama State and Louisiana-Monroe to win the Marriott Invitational in nine perfect sets.
The 11-1 start is the program’s best since 1985 when the Sun Devils started 16-1 behind head coach Debbie Brown.
Head coach Jason Watson rested several starters in the morning game against Alabama State. Neither sophomore middle blocker Mercedes Binns nor freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey played, and sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner saw limited time in the tune-up game.
“We played a lot of different lineups and we gave some different looks,” Watson said. “It’s nice when you do that, we can still be composed and play well.”
Gardner recorded five kills against Alabama State, just her second single-digit performance of 2013.
Saturday served as a testament to the team’s depth, as the Sun Devils played the morning game relying on contributions from players such as senior outside hitter Bethany Jorgensen and junior outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner.
“We have an enormous amount of confidence in each of the athletes on our team, that they can go in and do some things,” Watson said. “Because of that depth, we’re able to play well for long periods of time because we have to do that in practice.”
Senior libero Stephanie Preach said depth is something that sets this team apart from teams of years past.
“Whatever our lineup is, I believe in every single person on our team,” Preach said. “We have so much depth and that’s never been the case here.”
The Sun Devils continued the good serving trend, racking up 10 aces against Alabama State, a season high. Even when they weren’t aces, Arizona State created offensive opportunities from the service line.
Sophomore setter Bianca Arellano had her best day at the service line, totaling five aces in the two games. Watson was again impressed by the speed of her serve.
“She got better (at serving) as the weekend went on,” Watson said. “It would be interesting to see how fast they were.”
Arellano said the thought process behind her service is quite simple.
“Jason (Watson) always says in practice just hit it hard,” Arellano said. “I don’t care where it goes, just hit it hard.”
Watson said the Sun Devils responded well to playing in front of a loud home crowd, a point of emphasis after Friday’s match against Cal Poly.
“I thought we were better today than yesterday at that kind of stuff,” Watson said. “We were in some pretty good routines.”
The Sun Devils host the Arizona Wildcats Tuesday night at 8 p.m. before travelling to Palo Alto Friday to face the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal.
“Tuesday’s a completely different animal,” Watson said. “It changes next week. Everything changes.”
-Bianca Arellano was the most valuable player of the Marriott Invitational
-BreElle Bailey and Stephanie Preach were selected for the all-tournament team.
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