ASU women's volleyball falls to UCLA 3-1

The game marks the Sun Devils fifth straight loss

On the night of former Sun Devil and current assistant coach Macey Gardner’s birthday, the ASU women’s volleyball team put on a show for their coach. 

Despite a spectacular performance from senior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro, the Sun Devils (10-7) fell to the No. 13 Bruins (11-4) 3-1.

The opening set for ASU started off competitive, with the Sun Devils taking an early 3-2 lead. However, the Bruins were able to pull away from the Sun Devils with four unanswered points. 

Because of this high energy offense by the Bruins, the Sun Devils were unable to fully bounce back. ASU cut the Bruins lead down to five late in the set, with the help of junior opposite hitter Peyton Grahovac

That attempt would not be enough, however, as the Bruins would respond with five unanswered points, once again, taking a 10-point lead. That deficit would pose too much for the Sun Devils to overcome, and they would fall to the Bruins 25-14 in the first set.

It was the Okaro show in the second set of the match. Things started off great for the Sun Devils, who opened the second set with a kill and a service ace. A long rally in the early moments and a 5-3 lead showed that the Sun Devils would not go down without a fight. 

While the set would remain close throughout the night, it was sophomore outside hitter Ivana Jeremic and Okaro that kept ASU above water. Okaro would help ASU to pull away at the end of the period, but it was Jeremic with the final kill that led the Sun Devils to a 25-20 win.

The third set began with a multitude of errors on both sides of the net. Neither team was able to take a substantial lead and tied multiple times in the early moments of the game.

After a number of lead changes, the Bruins earned four unanswered points, including back-to-back kills by freshman outside hitter Mac May and two errors by Sun Devil freshman outside hitter Griere Hughes

ASU was able to stay within striking distance, at one point cutting the deficit to 21-18, with a kill by junior middle blocker Carmen Unzue. The Bruins would respond going on a 4-2 run filled with kills by Mac, senior outside hitter Reily Buechler and sophomore middle blocker Madeleine Gates. Their dominance at the end of the period would push the Bruins to a 25-20 win to take the third set.

In the fourth and final set, the Sun Devils took an early 3-1 lead after a kill by Okaro and two Bruins' errors, but that lead would not stay for long, as the Bruins would go on a 7-0 run, which included three straight kills. 

Much to the frustration of the Sun Devils, they were unable to pull ahead of the Bruins. The closest they would come to taking a lead was a tie, in which they earned a point off an error from freshman outside hitter Jenny Mosser

The Bruins never looked back. Undeterred by their run, Okaro and Hughes contributed kills of their own, and ASU continued to fight back, answering every point with an immense amount of hustle. They would ultimately fall in the fourth 25-19.

This loss marked the fifth straight for the Sun Devils, but the first match in which they were able to win a set since Sept. 24, where they lost to then No. 7 Washington, 3-2. Okaro led the Sun Devils with 14 kills and Jeremic followed close behind with 13. For the Bruins, Gates led her team with 15 kills, while Mosser and May both contributed 13.

Head coach Sanja Tomasevic spoke after the game. 

"There were moments tonight where we played well, and there were moments where we played extremely disappointing," Tomasevic said. "We made mistakes that seventh or eighth graders would make, like colliding on the court ... things that are completely under our control."

Tomasevic reiterated that while the mistakes the women made were unacceptable, they need to keep perspective about the group they are working with.

"This is a young team, and we're going to build on it and eliminate the not so smart mistakes we made," Tomasevic said.

Okaro agreed that it is disheartening to see the mistakes the team has been making after all the progress they have made over the past weeks in practice.

"I feel like we're making a lot of progress," Okaro said. "It is frustrating, not because we lost tonight, but that the progress that we've made, the things we've cleaned up, has been way harder skills that we needed to work on, and the things we're still messing up are basic things."

Jeremic said that they know what to expect from these teams, and that one of the errors they dealt with throughout the night was missing serves.

 "Against this team you need to serve tough – you need to go for it – we know for each team how good they are in passing, but this is the Pac-12, so they're all good," Jeremic said. "It's a huge momentum killer."

The Sun Devils hope to turn their losing streak around tonight when they take on No. 15 USC at 6 p.m.


Reach the reporter at klbroder@asu.edu or follow @KellyB1459 on Twitter. 

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