If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
Unfortunately for the ASU volleyball team, it is now officially broken.
The team’s once-flourishing offense has faltered in weeks past, and the Sun Devils have dropped six of their last seven in conference play as a result.
Coach Jason Watson hinted after Sunday’s loss that he would test some new offensive combinations in efforts to turn things around.
The first move is putting freshman outside hitter BreElle Bailey, a right-handed hitter, on the left. The change would put either junior outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner or freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey on the left.
ASU tried the new look in practice this week in preparation for Utah and Colorado, and Watson said he was pleased but that he still wasn’t sure whether Bailey would start on the right or the left in Thursday’s match.
“What I do like about it so far is we’ve been giving up some points because of our passing in rotation 2 and rotation 3,” Watson said. “It seems to have kind of solidified that a little bit. Our passing just looks like it’s a little bit more comfortable, a little bit cleaner in those rotations where we had given up big chunks of points.”
Bailey said she enjoys both sides and is ready to play wherever she is needed this weekend.
“(The move) just kind of creates something different,” Bailey said. “With our record right now, we just kind of needed a change.”
The switch could mean Bailey would take on additional passing responsibilities, though she said she doesn’t believe that will be the case.
Other than Bailey, the player most affected by the move is sophomore setter Bianca Arellano, who orchestrates the offense.
“(Bailey) has really long limbs and so coach Watson always tells me, ‘You got to give her time; you got to give her time to get those things moving,’” Arellano said. “She has such a beautiful long swing, so I have to kind of give her a high ball.”
A higher set to Bailey would slow down the offensive tempo, something Arellano said isn’t a particularly difficult adjustment. She said that consistency with the middles is crucial in the midst of all the changes.
“Since we are moving everything around, I really have to get some trust in my middles right now,” Arellano said. “(Bailey)’s probably not used to outside, so once we get some more kills from the middles, we can get more comfortable giving (Bailey) some more balls out of system.”
Willey is also affected by the change, as she might see more time hitting on the right side.
“I played right side before in high school and at the USA level as well and so I like it just as much,” Willey said. “We’re not position specific necessarily, but we’re all-around volleyball players so anyone can play anywhere at anytime.”
The Utes host the Sun Devils Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. in the first leg of ASU’s four-game road trip.
Willey battling through knee pain
During Friday’s match, Willey “tweaked” her knee, then heard it pop Sunday when she “landed on somebody during warm-ups.” She said nothing is structurally wrong with her knee, aside from some soreness. She is able to play with a brace and practiced in full on Monday and Tuesday.
“Playing through pain; athletes are used to it,” Willey said.
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