An intense match schedule has forced the No. 17 ASU volleyball team to rest and avoid the typical practice routine.
It practiced on Tuesday for a short period, but coach Jason Watson said the team’s being “very conscious of rest” while preparing for its Thursday match against Canada’s Mt. Royal University. Instead of the normal physical practices, the team is focusing on watching film and finding aspects of its game to improve upon.
“The rest is something that we need, given that we played three matches (over the weekend) and we got home Monday night late,” he said.
ASU rose eight spots in NCAA rankings after its 3-0 weekend in Hawaii. Watson said the No. 17 Sun Devils still have work to do, especially with their serving process. The team needs to make sure its serving is consistent in motion and timing.
“We’re OK with them making errors, but what we’re not OK is if we don’t take our time in that process,” Watson said.
Additionally, the team is working on playing in more formations on the court. Watson said it’s practicing adjusting formation based on the serve’s location.
Thursday’s exhibition match against Mt. Royal University will officially begin the Resident Inn Challenge. The team contacted ASU about getting a scrimmage in after the Cougars’ matches against Grand Canyon University.
“I think they just wanted to come down and practice and train and play against some other competition,” Watson said. “It worked out really good in our schedule.”
Watson said this will act as extra practice time for his team as well. He sees it as an opportunity for the coaches to recognize times to make adjustments to the lineups and processes during match time.
“The outcome of the match isn’t going to be this big deal for our season, so that’s a luxury we’ve never had before,” he said.
The Sun Devils aren’t taking the match lightly, though. Watson said Mt. Royal has a good volleyball program.
“They’re at a probably different phase of their training,” he said. “But yeah, they’re a pretty good team.”
This exhibition starts off a weekend that will include matches against University of Alabama at Birmingham, Idaho State and Iowa. ASU plays the first two teams on Friday.
Watson said Friday will be a tough day in terms of opponent talent and fatigue from playing two matches in one day.
“I think that’s going to be a pretty big test for us, to be able to play a solid UAB team and then a really good Idaho State team and not have very much time in between the two,” he said.
Watson said he still needs to talk to his team to figure out how to adjust the lineup to deal with fatigue.
UAB went 2-1 last weekend, with its only loss coming against No. 14 Michigan State. Idaho State went 1-2. Watson said both teams have returning athletes and coaches who have done good jobs building the programs.
“When you have returning athletes and you have good coaches … you always get a little nervous knowing that those teams are going to be prepared, and you’re going to have to play really, really well,” he said. “But that’s also what makes them exciting.”
ASU has Saturday off before taking on the 2-1 Hawkeyes.
Watson said Iowa’s new coach brought new energy to the club. Additionally, he said they’re accustomed to playing good teams due to residing in the Big-10. This game will be televised on Pac-12 Arizona, but Watson downplayed this aspect.
“We’ve played on TV enough now that it’s just another thing that we do,” he said. “It’s just a part of it. It’s a nice part, of course, but it’s just another thing that goes on during a match that we really don’t pay too much attention to.”