All good things must come to an end.
The No. 15 ASU volleyball team (13-3, 2-2 Pac-12) fell in four sets Sunday afternoon 25-21, 19-25, 10-25, 20-25 to No. 21 Oregon, its first home loss in 2013.
The Ducks were playing without their nationally-recognized senior setter Lauren Plum, who coach Jason Watson said was “one of the best in the country.”
Watson said the absence of Plum might have forced Oregon to play better.
“When those things happen, we talked before the match that they’re going to rally around their setter,” Watson said. “In some ways they’re probably going to be better because they understand that they’ve got to play better.”
Oregon, who fell to unranked Arizona Friday night, came out energized and hungry for redemption Sunday.
ASU hit just .066 in the match, their lowest number in the first 15 games of the season. Quality serving by Oregon forced poor passing by the ASU hitters. As a result, sophomore setter Bianca Arellano failed to get in sync with the outside hitters all afternoon.
“We were never in tempo,” Watson said. “You can’t give up that many points and expect to pull off a win in this conference.”
After taking the first set 25-21 behind six kills each from freshman outside hitter BreElle Bailey and sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner, ASU took an early 2-0 lead in the second set.
Oregon coach Jim Moore, in his ninth year with the Ducks, took an unusually early timeout that sparked his team to a 5-1 run. Oregon would go on to win the set 25-19, the first set ASU has dropped at home all season.
“They missed six serves in game two and we couldn’t win,” Watson said. “When a team misses six serves in a game you like your chances. I think game two was a little bit of a turning point. They made some errors and we couldn’t capitalize.”
ASU failed to matched Oregon’s adjustments after the second set.
“They didn’t make as many hitting errors,” Watson said. “Clearly they forced us to play an uncomfortable length of time for each rally and as a result we ended up erroring out.”
The Sun Devils scored just 10 points in the third set, their lowest number in 51 sets played in 2013. Watson experimented to no avail with junior outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner, substituting her for freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey.
“They served us outsides and we got aced over and over and then when we did get a pass up it was a struggle to even get a hit on the ball,” Gardner said.
The fourth set was more of the same: ASU hit -0.24 and as Oregon went on to win the set and match.
Gardner and the other Sun Devil hitters recorded 34 hitting errors Sunday, a season-high.
“They had a triple block on our outsides all night long and so seeing that in front us … we were kind of taking blind shots and that didn’t help us,” Gardner said.
Oregon’s setter, junior Shellsy Ashen, was a more-than-competent replacement, totaling 40 assists. Sophomore outside hitter Canace Finley and junior outside hitter Liz Brenner combined for 31 kills, making up the majority of the Oregon offense.
ASU, who recorded 11 team blocks on Friday night against Oregon St., failed to slow the Oregon hitters, totaling just six blocks in four sets.
Watson said the expectation is to sweep at home, and that this match was a huge disappointment.
“Certainly there’s this sense of urgency when you go on the road that you need to get a split,” Watson said. “You hope there’s a sense of urgency when you’re home to make sure you sweep. I’m really disappointed we couldn’t rise to the occasion.”
Next up, the Sun Devils travel to Washington for a weekend series against Washington State and No. 1 Washington.
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