It has gone from bad to worse for the ASU volleyball team.
The No. 22 Sun Devils dropped their fifth-straight conference match Sunday morning, this time to unranked UCLA (11-7, 2-6 Pac-12).
ASU volleyball (13-7, 2-6 Pac-12) hasn’t won a set since Oct. 11 against Washington State.
Coach Jason Watson said he is struggling to figure out the next step.
“It’s hard to imagine six weeks ago the team we had and now we’re here,” Watson said. “I’m really struggling right now to figure out where we go from here.”
UCLA junior outside hitter Karsta Lowe came out swinging in the first set. Lowe recorded five kills and two service aces in a sloppy first game, and spurred UCLA to a 25-23 victory.
Watson experimented with junior outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner, who played in place of freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey.
Tuioti-Mariner finished with nine kills, a season-high in three-set matches. She has developed into a versatile player and said that she was comfortable trying some new things Sunday.
“I’ve been practicing outside since the beginning of the season, so I was really comfortable,” Tuioti-Mariner said. “Even though I was playing right side the past years, I forced myself to try to adjust.”
The second frame saw several questionable calls go UCLA’s way, a factor in its 25-20 set win. The sloppiness continued in the second set, and both teams had combined for 12 service aces after two sets were through.
But UCLA failed to let up in the third set, taking the match 25-23, 25-20, 25-21.
Lowe hit .316 in the match and recorded a team-high 17 kills. The Sun Devils failed to slow her down.
“There are just some shockingly uncharacteristic things that we’re doing that we haven’t done that I think come as a result of just trying to be something that we’re not,” Watson said.
Watson also said that his players have placed immense internal pressure on themselves.
“As external as some pressure is, I don’t think it compares to the internal expectations or pressures that these kids are putting on themselves to be great,” Watson said.
If there was anything positive to take from the match, it was the performance of Tuioti-Mariner.
“Lost in the depths of the streak are these individual performances,” Watson said.
The Pac-12 schedule continues Thursday when the ASU volleyball team takes on Utah in the first leg of a four-game road trip.
-Sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner recorded just 8 kills on 36 attempts.
-One of UCLA’s best hitters, redshirt sophomore Haley Lawless, who attended high school at Tempe’s Seton Catholic, was injured late in the first set. UCLA followed the injury with a 2-0 run to take the set.
-Watson substituted senior outside hitter Bethany Jorgensen into the match several times to serve. She finished with one dig.
-Willey’s knee was in a brace but Watson said she is not injured. The Highland, Utah native failed to record a kill.
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