For yet another weekend, the ASU volleyball team has failed to stop the bleeding.
Coach Jason Watson and his squad (13-9, 2-8 Pac-12) fell Thursday and Sunday to Utah and Colorado, respectively, increasing the season-long losing streak to seven matches.
After the Oct. 18 sweep at the hands of No. 1 USC, senior libero Stephanie Preach said these stretches come and go over the course of a season.
“It happens in seasons,” Preach said. “You hit rough patches. There are rough times.”
This is the program’s longest losing streak since the 2011 season, when the Sun Devils lost 11 straight matches, the first nine of which were are the start of conference play.
That spell included five straight losses to top-10 teams. This streak hasn’t yet reached the same length, but no doubt has left a seemingly irreparable gash on a once-hopeful season.
A team once intent on playing in the NCAA tournament will need to make some changes in the second half of Pac-12 play.
But it won’t come easy: ASU appeared to lose sophomore setter Bianca Arellano to injury on the final point of Sunday’s match against Colorado.
The injury placed a blemish on an improved weekend where ASU volleyball took three sets from opponents. The Sun Devils had failed to take a set in the last three matches before Thursday.
However, losses are losses, and they just keep adding up.
In Thursday’s match, ASU volleyball failed to capitalize on a historic night from outside hitter Macey Gardner. The sophomore sparked her team to two set wins with 29 total kills, a career-high.
It appeared that Gardner simply ran out of gas in the fifth set, and was unable to carry her team any further. Her teammates failed to step up in support, and ASU scored just nine points in the final set.
As shown on Sunday, though, ASU can’t rely on Gardner for offense in every match. She recorded 14 kills, but hit just .068 in the match. Gardner has yet to hit over .200 in consecutive conference games.
Additionally, this weekend showed that junior outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner might not be the answer to ASU’s offensive problems.
Despite hitting .227 with nine kills against UCLA last Sunday, Tuioti-Mariner hit .120 Thursday at Utah and .083 Sunday at Colorado.
Meanwhile, freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey did not play during the weekend set.
Sunday’s loss at Colorado was puzzling when looking at the numbers. The Sun Devils held Colorado to just a .099 hitting percentage, blocking the Buffaloes 13 times, the most since ASU blocked Washington State 12 times on Oct. 11. ASU failed to convert when it counted, though, and now faces another tough road weekend in the Pac-12.
Exactly halfway through the Pac-12 slate, ASU would need to go 8-2 in its final 10 games to finish .500 in conference.
Certainly the NCAA tournament hopes are still alive. With the caliber of the Pac-12, it’s possible that several teams will make the national tournament, said Watson in the wake of the Oct. 18 loss to USC.
“(The Pac-12) can make a case right now for nine or 10 teams to get into the tournament,” Watson said. “That’s pretty impressive.”
The Sun Devils get their chance to revive their tournament hopes and turn the season around Friday night at Oregon at 6:00 p.m. ASU plays at Oregon State Saturday at 6:00 p.m. OSU has yet to win a conference match.
- Sophomore setter Bianca Arellano, who fell on a teammate’s foot on the final play of the Colorado match, did not break her ankle, said media relations assistant Kathryn Roberts in a text. Roberts said her ankle would take at least a week to heal.
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