Coming off of a long road trip last weekend to Montana, the ASU volleyball team (7-2) travels on an even longer trip this weekend, this time to Durham, N.H.
The Sun Devils will be playing Harvard (2-5), Wyoming (6-3) and tournament host New Hampshire (3-7) in the second annual Holly Young Invitational.
The trip to the Northeast is long, but ASU coach Jason Watson thinks the experience will be immensely valuable.
“It’s definitely a long time to be sitting in a plane,” Watson said. “But we think it’s good preparation for us if down the road we get an NCAA bid and they send us to the East Coast, then we’ll have gone through that travel before.”
With conference play set to begin next weekend, Watson’s focus on practice this week was to improve the team’s endurance, particularly after the Sun Devils struggled last weekend in four- and five-set matches.
“We’re just trying to play for a long period of time and see if we can stay composed and stay direction-orientated for a long period of time,” Watson said. “I haven’t quite seen the return on it, but certainly we’ve acknowledged the things we need to get better at.”
At the beginning of the season, Watson said as many as five spots were up for grabs, with only junior outside hitter Sarah Reaves truly assured of keeping her spot.
Sophomore outside hitter Sofie Schlagintweit and senior middle blocker Paige Mittelstaedt quickly claimed two more spots, leaving the setter, libero and one more outside hitter spot up in the air.
After practice on Wednesday, Watson said sophomore Cat Highmark has won the setter job and junior Sarah Johnson will be the starting libero.
The other outside hitter position is still up for grabs between sophomores Malia Marquardt and Camri Zwiesler, although Watson said Zwiesler will receive most of the playing time this weekend.
Watson has had to prepare for three very different teams this weekend.
“The three of them are unique in the way they do some things,” Watson said. “Harvard is very much orientated around their middles, Wyoming’s offense is very diverse and very fast and New Hampshire has very physical outside hitters. Each of them pose different and unique challenges.”
ASU kicks off the tournament against Harvard on Friday afternoon. The Crimson have struggles on the road this year, as it is 0-3 away from its home gym.
Harvard is led by senior setter Lily Durwood, who finished second last year in the Ivy League in assists and has the third most assists in school history.
Sophomore middle blocker Anne Carroll Ingersoll leads the team with 76 kills.
The Sun Devils play an early game Saturday morning, facing the Wyoming Cowgirls at 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The Cowgirls already were on the East Coast, playing Brown Thursday afternoon, so they will be better adjusted to the time change than the Sun Devils.
ASU will face another strong setter in junior Barbara Lasic, who has recorded 395 assists in 36 sets, good for an astounding 10.97 assists per set ratio.
Lasic’s favorite target has been freshman Jodi Purdy, who leads the team with 115 kills.
ASU rounds out the tournament against New Hampshire on Saturday evening.
The Wildcats have yet to play at home this year and are looking to establish home-court dominance.
Senior middle blocker Lindsay Fogarty leads the team with 87 kills while sophomore outside hitter Lauren Laquerre has 72 kills to make a formidable 1-2 punch.
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