The ASU volleyball team opened the season with a winning mark, going 2-1 in the Utah Classic.
The Sun Devils fell to No. 17 Utah, but defeated Cincinnati and UC Riverside.
On Friday night, the Sun Devils were swept in three games by Utah; 25-15, 25-20, 25-21.
Junior outside hitter Sarah Reaves led the Sun Devils with a match-high of 12 kills, and sophomore outside hitter Sofie Schlagintweit contributed seven kills as well.
Senior setter Marina Mercer had 16 assists, and sophomore libero Ashley Kelty led the team with 11 digs.
One of the things that led to the Sun Devils’ struggles was a combined 14 unforced errors, including six service errors.
Utah’s home-court advantage was also significant, ASU coach Jason Watson said.
“We just weren’t as prepared for that type of environment,” Watson said. “The crowd is a big influence. The fans are really close to the court, and it’s just something we didn’t deal with.”
The Sun Devils rebounded the next day, defeating defending Big East champion Cincinnati in five games; 25-17, 25-20, 20-25, 16-25, 15-7.
Reaves once again led the team with 12 kills, and Schlagintweit had 11 kills of her own.
Sophomore setter Cat Highmark made her ASU debut and led the team with 30 assists and 18 digs.
Inserting Highmark into the starting lineup helped change the pace of the match, Watson said.
“After the first match, we identified the need to create more opportunities,” he said. “Cat created those opportunities.”
The Sun Devils came out firing, taking the first two games by a combined score of 50-37. But UC came back strong the next two games, including a 25-16 bludgeoning of the Sun Devils in the fourth, to tie the match up at two games apiece.
In the fifth and deciding game, the teams were tied at two before ASU went on a 9-1 run to put the game out of reach.
Watson credited his team for regaining its composure and not letting the match slip away.
“We lost our focus a little bit after the second game,” Watson said. “We were able to recoup it by the fifth game and get the win.”
The biggest difference between the loss to Utah and the win against UC was the defense.
After compiling only 23 digs and eight team blocks against Utah, the Sun Devils recorded 62 digs and 19.5 team blocks against UC.
Freshman middle blocker Erica Wilson led the team with nine blocking assists in her ASU debut, including three in the final game, while senior middle blocker Paige Mittelstaedt and Schlagintweit each had eight.
Watson pointed at Wilson’s contributions on defense as one of the keys to the match.
“Erica is great at closing the blocks,” Watson said. “She became a factor in the match. She was the presence at the net we needed.”
For Wilson, it was a successful collegiate debut.
“I was very excited,” Wilson said. “I thought I would’ve been nervous, but I wasn’t at all. As a freshman, I felt I had to prove I could contribute, and I was able to today.”
In the third and final match of the tournament, ASU swept UC Riverside; 25-21, 25-22 and 25-15.
Sophomore outside hitter Camri Zweisler came off of the bench to lead the Sun Devils with a match-high nine kills. Sophomore outside hitter Malia Marquardt and Schlagintweit each recorded seven kills of their own.
Highmark led the Sun Devils in assists for the second straight match — recording 28 — while Mittelstaedt led the team with six blocking assists. Schlagintweit led the team with 12 digs.
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