No. 25 ASU volleyball began the season with three consecutive victories in Hawaii, beginning with two three-game sweeps.
The weekend started with a victory over San Diego State.
“Late in game two and game three we got into a real nice rhythm,” ASU coach Jason Watson said.
In this groove, he said the players dug well and made strong serves.
“We had some errors, but I think we were comfortable with that given the return we were getting,” he said.
The success primarily came from a balanced approach, he said. Junior middle blockers Whitney Follette and Mercedes Binns became involved in the middle, which allowed the offense to distribute hits.
“It wasn’t all stooped toward Macey (Gardner),” he said.
Junior outside hitter Gardner did have success, though. She compiled 10 kills in that match, and sophomore opposite hitter Kizzy Willey punched in another 10. The athlete who stood out, though, was freshman libero Halle Harker.
“She served well and she passed well,” Watson said. “It was a pretty impressive performance for a true freshman.
ASU defeated the Aztecs 25-18, 25-21, 25-14.
The next night, the Sun Devils took on the home team — No. 17 Hawaii.
“It was an opportunity to get better and play against a really good team, a phenomenally good team in this remarkable environment and do it well,” Watson said.
Gardner completed 16 kills and sophomore outside hitter BreElle Bailey had a pair of aces as ASU went on to sweep the match in three sets, 25-21, 25-23, 25-23. ASU led in major stats including kills, assists, digs and hitting percentage, which pushed them ahead of the ranked squad.
The match against Ohio on Sunday started the same, and ASU looked to be en route to another victory. The Sun Devils won the first set 25-16.
“We were pretty clean, played pretty air-tight and I don’t think they (Ohio) were playing particularly well,” Watson said.
Ohio cleaned up their own game, Watson said, and climbed back into the match with a 26-24 victory in set two. From there on, it was back and forth.
“It was a one play here, one play there… and they were better in game two and better in game four,” Watson said.
ASU won the third set 26-24, and Ohio eked out the fourth by the same score.
“They were better in game two and better in game five,” Watson said.
Something clicked for ASU in the fifth set, and they took a quick 9-1 lead.
“In game five, we kind of came out really well and served well and played some really nice defense, which we really hadn’t done up until then,” he said.
ASU won the fifth set 15-6. Harker had a game-high 19 digs, ASU combined for 57 kills, and junior setter Bianca Arellano completed 47 assists — the same amount as the entire Ohio team combined.
“Ohio’s a team that’s going to go and win a lot of matches,” Watson said.
Watson underscored the importance of this weekend by saying that Hawaii and San Diego State are also going to play and win big matches.
“These are important wins when we start talking about seeding and start talking about NCAA tournaments and selections,” Watson said.
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