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Volleyball fares well in tourney

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Sophomore Katie Crosby gets ready to set the ball during a match against Charleston Southern at Wells Fargo Arena.(Matt Pavelek | The State Press)

The ASU volleyball team went 2-1 over the weekend at the University of Montana Classic, defeating North Dakota and Montana but losing to Southern Methodist.

Junior outside hitter Sarah Reaves and senior middle blocker Paige Mittelstaedt were both named to the all-tournament team — Mittelstaedt’s third all-tournament team honor in three weeks.

All of the matches were long and tested the Sun Devils’ endurance, as two of the three matches were decided in the fifth set, and the other match went four sets.

“We schedule these preseason tournaments as learning opportunities,” ASU coach Jason Watson said. “I think we learned a lot — an enormous amount about trying to be good over a long period of time.”

The Sun Devils (7-2) opened the tournament defeating North Dakota on Friday morning 3-1 (19-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-21).

ASU got off to a slow start, losing the first set and recording a lowly .154 kill percentage.

But the Sun Devils recovered to sweep the next three sets and take the victory.

Reaves exploded in the match, recording a season-high 23 kills to lead the Sun Devil offense and give a preview of what would be an incredible weekend for her.

Sophomore libero Ashley Kelty continued her back row defensive dominance this season, recording 14 digs, while Mittelstaedt controlled the front row once again, recording six blocking assists.

Watson saw his team struggle, but said he was happy that the Sun Devils were able to pull out the victory.

“We weren’t quite ourselves,” Watson said. “But we stayed fairly composed, and we were able to ride out the match and come away with the win.”

On Friday evening, ASU took on SMU, but this time, the Sun Devils weren’t able to come away with the win, dropping the match 3-2 (25-21, 25-19, 24-26, 25-21, 11-15).

Reaves once again led the team in kills with 19, and Mittelstaedt contributed 14 kills.

But the Sun Devils could not contain SMU sophomore outside hitter Dana Powell, who had 26 kills.

The match saw 23 tied scores and eight lead changes, but it was SMU that pulled out the win in the fifth set.

While Watson mentioned that ASU had missed some opportunities, he credited SMU as being the stronger team that night.

“SMU was just better, and they were able to stay fairly composed,” Watson said. “It wasn’t a lack of effort on our part. I think it was just more that we tried, but it just wasn’t going to be our night.”

On Saturday evening against tournament host Montana, a classic took place.

ASU was down 2-0 before rallying to win three straight sets, taking the match 3-2 (21-25, 24-26, 25-23, 25-16, 15-10).

Heading into the intermission between the second and third sets, Watson did something out of the ordinary.

Normally one to let his team make the adjustments and motivate themselves, Watson challenged the Sun Devils.

“We felt this could be a very defining moment for us as a program,” Watson said. “What are we going to do, and how are we going to respond to the situation that we’re in? It is kind of a risky thing to say to a team, but they responded to it.”

After a close third set in which ASU won by two, the Sun Devils ran away with the match, outscoring Montana 40-26 the rest of the way.

Reaves took charge, recording 24 kills and two service aces, while sophomore setter Cat Highmark recorded 48 assists.

The defense of the Sun Devils also stepped up, as the team recorded 14.5 blocks and 76 digs, which were both season highs.

Reaves recorded 66 kills on the weekend, which was only five fewer than she had in the previous six matches combined.

“She had a phenomenal weekend,” Watson said. “She is certainly a very gifted athlete, and one of the things that she is coming to terms with is her ability to lead this program and her ability to take over at key points. She worked really hard against SMU to do that, and then against Montana, when we needed her, she certainly did step up in a very big way.”

Reach the reporter at kyle.glaser@asu.edu.


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