Passing, passing, passing.
ASU volleyball coach Jason Watson has emphasized this fundamental skill for weeks, claiming that the first hit is by far the most important.
However, it wasn’t until last Friday’s loss to No. 7 Stanford that the Sun Devils needed top-notch passing to compete in a match. Against lesser opponents, they could get away with sub-par first touches.
Thus, the main focus of this week’s practice is, you guessed it, passing.
“It’s a skill that up until Stanford had been really good for us,” Watson said. “It just kind of broke down really quickly on Friday, which was unexpected. We’ve been fairly comfortable with the way we’ve been passing, so we just didn’t see this one coming.”
The Cardinal aced the Sun Devils six times in the sweep, tied for the highest allowed by ASU this year in a three-game match.
Watson said the goal of this week’s practices is to make sure the outside hitters are giving several offensive options to the setter.
Passing is rated on three-point scale based on how many offensive options the pass allows. Three points means three offensive options are available based on the set, and the same goes for two points and one point. A zero means the player was aced. The numbers are averaged to get a score.
Outside hitters should be passing at a score of 2.2, Watson said, while liberos and defensive specialists are expected to pass at a slightly better rate.
Sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner, who receives serves more than her teammates, said she is striving to get her 2.1 score up to the expected 2.2.
“So that just means I’m keeping the ball in system more often, and I’m going to give better passes,” Gardner said. “It’s a personal goal to pass a 2.2 and this weekend it’s the same thing.”
Gardner said passing has an individual and a team element.
“Passing is kind of a personal skill,” Gardner said. “But it’s also a team skill, because it’s involved in every single play. It’s personal, because you want to improve your numbers.”
Gardner, whose right hand (her hitting hand) has been in a splint for several weeks, said she dislocated and fractured her pinky blocking a ball in practice just before tournament play earlier this season. The rigor of ASU’s schedule has meant that the pinky hasn’t had adequate time to heal.
“Because we haven’t had any off time … it just hasn’t really healed, so you just put a splint on it and hope they don’t serve you over the head,” Gardner said. “As long as it’s taped up, then it’s no big deal.”
She has not been given a timetable and said that she has so grown accustomed to the splint that it doesn’t affect her play.
- Another point of emphasis in this week’s practices is working well in transition. “I’m not sure in transition whether or not we’re making good decisions,” Watson said. “If the first contact isn’t so great and we’re trying to go fast then it just messes up some tempo.”
- ASU volleyball had its radar gun at Monday’s practice to measure the speed of players’ serves.
The Sun Devils take on both Oregon St. and Oregon this weekend at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.
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