The ASU volleyball team (2-1, 0-0 Pac-10) is excited to be at home.
It is so excited that its members have been dancing in practice, in between plays and yelling extra loud, and it seems smiles have been permanently planted on their faces.
The Sun Devils will try to keep the energy level high as they make their home debut this coming weekend.
The Sun Devils will host the ASU Sheraton Classic at Wells Fargo Arena, facing Charleston Southern and UTEP on Friday before wrapping against Idaho State on Saturday.
Junior libero Sarah Johnson was the vocal leader in practice this week, simultaneously keeping the Sun Devils loose and raising the intensity level with her dance moves, loud praise of her teammates’ good work and leadership in the huddle.
“After we lost to Utah and right before we played Cincinnati, the coaches came up to me and said, ‘We need a lot of direction,’ ” Johnson said. “My personality is just loud and crazy, and when I’m loud and crazy I find that it pumps everybody else up, and that’s what has helped a lot.”
After Johnson was charged with being the vocal leader, the team won their next two matches, including a five-set thriller against Cincinnati.
Other teammates agree that the team has found some cohesion since last weekend.
“We’ve really come together,” said Sofie Schlagintweit, sophomore outside hitter, who showcased dance moves of her own during Wednesday’s practice. “We noticed that we need to communicate more and come in and cheer more and build that atmosphere. So far, so good.”
None of the three teams in this weekend’s tournament had a winning record last season, although all three teams are currently over .500.
The team kicks off the weekend against Charleston Southern (3-2, 0-0 Big South) on Friday afternoon, which head coach Jason Watson said will be the biggest challenge of the tournament for the Sun Devils.
“They are going to give us some problems [because] they are an incredibly diverse offensive team,” Watson said. “They move players all over the place, and we don’t see that very often. We don’t see that in the Pac-10 and we haven’t seen it this year, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Watson’s assessment of a diverse offense is evident in the fact that Charleston Southern has seven players returning who recorded over 100 kills last year, led by junior outside hitter Amanda Hill’s 499 kills.
ASU returns only three players who recorded over 100 kills last year.
After playing Charleston Southern, the Sun Devils return to the floor later Friday night to take on UTEP.
UTEP (3-0, 0-0 Conference USA) came away champions of the Sun Bowl Invitational last weekend and have yet to lose this year, sweeping all three of its matches.
Senior outside hitter Amy Sanders, who led the team with 401 kills last year, already has 45 in three matches this season. Junior setter Patty Jarmoc, who recorded 1,112 assists last year, has 85 assists in three matches in 2009.
The Sun Devils wrap up the ASU Sheraton Classic against Idaho State on Saturday.
The Bengals (3-0, 0-0 Big Sky) won the UniWyo Cowgirl Classic last weekend and are led by senior outside hitter Emily Waldron, who was the co-Big Sky Player of the Week last week, and junior middle blocker Sarah Carson, who had 97 total blocks last season and has 12 this year.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.