Two of the centerpieces of ASU’s volleyball team sat in the exhibition against Mt. Royal University Thursday night.
Junior setter Bianca Arellano and junior outside hitter Macey Gardner sat on the sidelines cheering for their teammates throughout the entire 3-0 ASU victory.
Junior middle blocker Whitney Follette said that not having the usual presence of Gardner and Arellano created was weird for the team. There were also early jitters due to playing at home for the first time this season, and the crowd being smaller than anticipated.
“This afforded us the opportunity to play some people… and we were comfortable doing it,” ASU coach Jason Watson said. “Even with game one.”
The game in question was not easy for the Sun Devils. ASU led for the majority of it, but never by more than a few points. Follette attributed this to Mt. Royal’s defensive efforts.
“They were digging a lot, they were doing really well on defense,” she said.
Mt. Royal left side hitter Carolyn O’Dwyer was key to the Canadian defensive scheme. She recorded a nine digs in the first game.
“On our side of it… we needed to focus more on our process and how we were doing things and get the little jitters out of the first game at home,” Follette said.
ASU’s small lead was relinquished halfway through the set, and a miscommunication at the net by the Sun Devils put Canada up 19-16.
Watson said he doesn’t “care about service errors,” but wasn’t pleased with the early serving in the match.
“We went an entire rotation and only one person made their serve,” he said. “If we could just get that process a little better, then we’d be okay. And I thought late in the first game, we were much better than early.”
ASU fought back to take 21-20 lead. The team eventually pulled ahead and won 29-27 off a Canadian hit that sailed a foot out of bounds on the right side.
“We pulled it out at the end which kind of showed a lot of character on our side and I think it was good for us to kind of have that fight, to get us going into the next set,” Follette said.
Video by Logan Newman | Sports Reporter
Set two was different from the beginning. An early miscalculation by O’Dwyer gave ASU a 6-1 lead, and the Sun Devils didn’t look back. Follette recorded six kills in the set and raised her hitting percentage from .333 to .636.
“I wanted to make sure that I was up in transition,” Follette said. “I think what helped a lot (was) our passing was really good, especially on the free balls.”
She also said the defense played well and helped allow freshman setter Madison McDaniel to make good passes. In her first collegiate start, McDaniel finished with 34 assists, which was 12 more than the entire Canadian team combined.
ASU won set two 25-8 and went on to win the third set 25-15.
The Sun Devils were victorious, but they didn’t completely achieve their goals for the match.
On Wednesday, Watson said he wanted to try adjusting the formations more often in the exhibition match. He said they didn’t do it as well and he anticipated.
“I thought specifically with serve receipt, identifying where the serve comes from… I thought we gave up some aces tonight because we weren’t organized and we weren’t staying in our seam,” he said.
He acknowledged that part of that was due to an inexperienced back row that heavily relied on junior middle blocker Andi Lowrance and freshman libero Halle Harker.
Canadian-native Follette was playing against some friends from Canada.
She said she played on a club team with one of the Mt. Royal athletes and was on a recreational volleyball squad with four others.
“It was really cool to see them down here playing in our gym,” she said. “It kind of felt like home, especially with the Canadian National Anthem.”
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