ASU Volleyball falls to by BYU in first round of NCAA tourney

All good things must come to an end.

The miraculous ASU volleyball season ended on Friday night when the Sun Devils fell 25-21, 22-25, 17-25, 26-24, 10-15, to No. 21 BYU in Hawaii in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

ASU has yet to make it out of the first round of the national tourney since coach Jason Watson took over the program in 2008.

Sophomore outside hitter Macey Gardner gave a remarkable performance, totaling 27 kills, her second highest season total. She completed the double-double with 15 digs, also a second-best on the season.

It seemed like a fitting end to a season where Gardner repeated as a member of the Pac-12 All-Conference team.

ASU (19-14, 8-12 Pac-12) didn’t look like the final team to make the NCAA tournament as it jumped out to a 6-2 lead early in the first set. The Cougars fought back but the Sun Devils staved off a late BYU run to take the frame 25-21 behind eight kills from Gardner.

The two squads traded points through much of the set. Gardner again dominated, racking up another eight kills in the set. BYU (23-6, 15-3 WCC) pulled away late to take the set 25-22. Junior opposite hitter Nora Tuioti-Mariner entered the game for freshman opposite hitter Kizzy Willey in the second set.

In the third frame of her last game in a Sun Devil uniform, senior libero Stephanie Preach eclipsed the 2,000-dig mark, becoming just the second Sun Devil in program history to do so. ASU went on to drop the set 17-25.

ASU, which trailed 18-22 in the fourth frame, wouldn’t go down without a fight. The Sun Devils battled back and avoided two season-points to finish the set on a 10-3 run. ASU won 26-24 as Gardner recorded a late kill and the set-ending block along with sophomore middle blocker Whitney Follette.

But the Sun Devils ultimately couldn’t end their fifth-set curse, falling 10-15 in the final frame. ASU was just 1-4 in 2013 in matches that went to the fifth set.

Sophomore outside hitters Gardner and BYU’s Alexa Gray battled kill-by-kill, and both ended up with 27.

Follette also challenged her season-high, recording 17 kills on .417 hitting. Follete’s counterpart, Mercedes Binns, was less effective, finishing with just five kills on 14 attempts.

Reach the reporter at bmargiot@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @BenMargiott