After three sets, it seemed as if the ASU volleyball team might finally get a win. But Utah (16-5, 5-4 Pac-12) had other plans.
The Sun Devils dropped their sixth straight match Thursday night, falling 23-25, 25-22, 26-24, 22-25, 9-15, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Continuing the trend of remarkable performances in the midst of the losses, sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner shined in the loss, recording a career-high 29 kills.
It was her highest kill total since she had 28 kills at UC Irvine on Aug. 31, 2012.
Junior outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner also impressed, setting her career-high with 14 kills.
It was all for naught, though, as the Sun Devils dropped yet another match in this ongoing slide.
After starting the first set up 6-1, the Sun Devils (13-8, 2-7 Pac-12) allowed the Utes to come back with an 8-2 run. In the end, Utah stole the set 25-23.
ASU, which had dropped 11 straight sets, finally won in the second frame, but not before a little drama. Ahead 21-14, ASU allowed the Utes to pull within one at 22-23. But an opportune timeout from coach Jason Watson spurred the Sun Devils to two more points and the set win. It was the Sun Devils’ first set victory since Oct. 11 at Washington State.
The Sun Devils averted two set points toward the end of the third set and fought back to win the third frame 26-24 on a block by freshman outside hitter BreElle Bailey. The set featured 18 ties.
Bailey finished the match with 13 kills, her highest total since she recorded 16 against Wichita State on Aug. 31.
Utah took both the fourth and fifth frames to take the 3-2 victory at home. The final point of the fourth set appeared to tip off a Utah player and landed out of bounds, but the officials didn’t see the touch and ruled in favor of the Utes.
In the decisive fifth set, the Sun Devils failed to get going early, forcing Watson to use both of his timeouts before Utah had scored 10 points. ASU failed to slow the Utes, and lost in heartbreaking fashion.
Utah blocked the Sun Devils 17.5 times and forced 29 attack errors, both large factors in the late-match collapse.
Coach Watson and his players could not be reached for comment after the game.
Next up for the Sun Devils is a match at the Colorado Buffaloes Sunday at 3 p.m.
-Bailey played the match on the right side, despite talks earlier this week of switching her to the left.
-Freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey did not play in the match as Watson chose Tuioti-Mariner instead.
-The Utes recorded nine service errors while ASU totaled just one.
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