The last time the Sun Devils squared off against the Oregon schools, they split the series at home.
On the road the second time around, the ASU volleyball team (13-9, 2-8 Pac-12) needs a weekend split at the very least to get back on track.
During Tuesday’s practice, coach Jason Watson outlined the path to the NCAA tournament for the Sun Devils’ final 10 games.
“If we want to get to the tournament or if we want to even be on the bubble I think (we) got to go six and four,” Watson said. “And maybe that’s not enough, you never know.”
Being swept in Eugene and Corvallis would set the Sun Devils back significantly in reaching that goal, making a road split more crucial than usual.
Making the weekend even tougher is the return of No. 23 Oregon’s nationally renowned senior setter Lauren Plum, who sat out the first duel because of a possible ankle injury. Watson said Oregon (12-8, 5-5 Pac-12) has used the 6-2 system to reintegrate her into the offense.
In Friday’s five-set loss at California, Plum split setting duties with junior Shellsy Ashen. Plum totaled 30 assists and Ashen added 28 of her own in the defeat.
But the main concern for the Sun Devils is Oregon junior outside hitter Liz Brenner, who recorded 17 kills and hit .222 in the first contest between the two schools.
“Maybe we don’t stop (Brenner) but maybe we put some pressure on their offense so that she’s not swinging away as freely as she was,” Watson said.
While Plum was out in the first matchup, it’s ASU’s sophomore setter Bianca Arellano who is injured for the second match because of an ankle sprain. This will no doubt compound ASU’s troubles this weekend.
Arellano’s replacement, junior setter Shannan McCready, isn’t expected to be as physical as Arellano at the net.
“We certainly don’t want Shannan blocking Brenner,” Watson said. “It’s not always going to be possible. But certainly that’s a matchup we want to avoid.”
In addition, ASU hit a season-low .066 hitting percentage and a season-high 34 errors in the previous encounter against the Ducks. Those stats will not stand against a healthier Oregon team that has gone 3-3 since last seeing ASU
ASU will get no rest before facing Oregon State (9-12, 0-10 Pac-12) Saturday evening. The Beavers are the only Pac-12 team with a losing record overall, and they have yet to win a conference match.
But, as shown by ASU’s recent losses to Washington State and UCLA, there’s not an easy game in the Pac-12.
Nevertheless, the underachieving Beavers are last in kills, assists and hitting percentage in the conference. The flip side of that coin? ASU has recently dropped to 11th in each of those metrics.
ASU ran a defensive clinic in the previous matchup, containing the Beavers to just a -.011 hitting percentage, the lowest number by an ASU opponent in 2013.
Freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey, who has been replaced by junior outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner, tallied a career-high 11 kills in the first game against the Beavers. However, all signs lead to her sitting out another weekend in the Pac-12.
Both matches start at 6:00 p.m. and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
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