The streak had to end eventually, but the ASU volleyball team didn’t want to wait to end it against the hopeless Oregon State Beavers on Saturday night.
So the Sun Devils (14-9, 3-8 Pac-12) took it to No. 23 Oregon (12-9, 5-6 Pac-12), winning 25-23, 21-25, 25-19, 25-15 and ending the seven-game losing streak with a crucial road victory in Eugene, Ore.
Coach Jason Watson said the main difference between Friday and the last matchup between the two schools was clean volleyball.
“What enabled us is that we didn’t make errors,” Watson said. “We didn’t give them very many points. I thought that was the difference between tonight and when we last played them.”
After battling back and forth in the first part of set one, ASU opened up a sizable lead thanks to a 5-0 run with senior defensive specialist Jenny Teslevich at the service line. Oregon strung together a 6-0 run late in the set, but was unable to complete the comeback and dropped the first set 23-25.
The Ducks actually outhit the Sun Devils .372 to .302 in the first set but were plagued by four costly service errors to ASU’s one.
The Ducks tied the match in set two, winning 25-21 with the last point coming on a service error by sophomore middle blocker Whitney Follette. Both star outside hitters, Oregon junior Liz Brenner and ASU sophomore Macey Gardner, had 11 kills and were hitting over .300 after two frames.
In the third set, Watson elected to go with junior outside hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner instead of freshman outside hitter Kizzy Willey, who had just 2 kills on .091 hitting after the first two sets. Regardless, the Sun Devils won the set 25-19.
“We’ll go right back with (Willey) tomorrow and give her another shot,” Watson said. “We just felt like we needed to make that change to see if we could kind of get a little bit more defense in front of Brenner. It really didn’t work.”
Oregon again looked to Brenner for the majority of the offense. The junior finished hitting .385 with 23 kills, her fourth 20-kill match in 2013. But the ASU hitters matched her with every kill.
ASU continued to roll in set four, jumping out to an early 8-1 lead. The Sun Devils clutched that lead tightly, winning the set 25-15 in the team’s best set of the evening.
Both freshman outside hitter BreElle Bailey and sophomore middle blocker Mercedes Binns set career-highs with 18 and nine kills, respectively.
The middles were an offensive force all night long, and Binns and Follette combined for 22 kills and no hitting errors. They had a combined .688 hitting percentage as well.
Gardner, despite playing with shin splints, recorded 24 kills but also hit for efficiency at a .364 clip. It was the first match all season where Bailey and Gardner both recorded at least 15 kills.
Watson said the shin splints have been a recurring issue.
“It’s been an ongoing issue for a month,” Watson said. “I think if you’re going to jump as much as Macey jumps, you’re going to have to deal with it.”
Junior setter Shannan McCready, who was filling in for the injured sophomore setter Bianca Arellano, was a more-than-competent replacement. She recorded 56 kills, setting a season-high for an ASU setter. Arellano’s previous record was 55 on Oct. 24 at Utah.
“It was just like any other setter,” Follette said. “I thought she did a really good job tonight.”
In the last matchup against Oregon, the Ducks’ setter, senior Lauren Plum, was injured and the Ducks rallied around her. This time, the tables were flipped.
“Tonight we needed (McCready) to set and I think because of her personality and her traits, the team kind of rallied around her,” Watson said. “She’s going to do what she needs to do to help her team.”
Follette said the win over Oregon was crucial to start the second half of the Pac-12 schedule.
“Especially with beating Oregon, it was kind of motivational for us to start the second half of the season off right,” Follette said.
ASU takes its newfound confidence against the Oregon State Beavers Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. in Corvallis, Ore.
The Beavers haven’t played since Sunday, and ASU will have had no rest days before the match.
“We can’t relax,” Watson said. “We did that and we haven’t won in a month so hopefully we’ve learned that lesson.”
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