For the first time since 2005, the ASU volleyball team lost at home against UA, dropping the match 3-1 (23-25, 18-25, 25-21, 14-25).
It was the team’s sixth straight loss after an 11-2 start and kept the Sun Devils in last place in the Pac-10.
Several players for ASU fought back tears as the final points were scored by UA to put the game away, and some players did not emerge from the locker room for quite some time.
The normally stout ASU defense had its worst performance of the year in terms of opponents hitting percentage, as UA hit an astounding .333 on the night.
ASU’s back row defense, which had been exceptional all year, had numerous communication breakdowns. UA kills split defenders in two, with each defender looking at each other, confused about whose ball it was.
“I felt like we’d been doing a pretty good, consistent job in that area, and it failed us tonight,” ASU coach Jason Watson said of the back row defense. “I don’t know why. It’s very disappointing that an area that we’ve relied on all season long just didn’t work for us.”
For the second straight week, the postgame discussion focused on playing to win rather than playing not to lose.
“I think it all comes down to wanting to win,” senior middle blocker Paige Mittelstaedt said. “I think we’re just trying to float through the season hoping good things are going to happen, and we have to put it upon ourselves and execute. It’s all about execution right now.”
The ASU offense had a poor night as well, hitting only .169 and committing a total of 37 errors.
The middle blockers had a good night offensively, with Mittelstaedt recording seven kills at a .583 clip and sophomore Sonja Markanovich hitting .333, but the outside hitters, except for junior Sarah Reaves, struggled enough to force Watson to substitute freely.
Normally not one to remove players in the middle of the game, Watson removed starting outside hitters Malia Marquardt and Ashley Kastl by the end of the second set in order to try and generate some offense.
“We’ve had these two really good weeks of practice, and everyone’s done a pretty nice job in those practices,” Watson said. “I thought that, ‘If this wasn’t working, then someone else had done a great job in practice, so let’s see if we can get something going.’ I didn’t think it was panic — it was just that we have some confidence in a lot of people that they could get the job done. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”
The first set went back and forth with 10 ties and five lead changes.
ASU was down 15-9 at one point during the set, but the Sun Devils clawed back to tie it at 17.
The two teams continued to go back and forth and the game was tied at 22 before UA pulled away for the set victory 25-23.
ASU started the second set by taking a 4-1 lead, but UA rallied back to take a 6-5 lead and never looked back.
By the time the set was over, UA had hit .519 in the set to ASU’s .212.
ASU came out of the break determined to make a match of it as the teams once again went back and forth for seven tie scores and five lead changes.
Key kills by Reaves late in the set foiled a UA rally as ASU took the set despite hitting only .135.
The fourth set started well for ASU with three tie scores and two lead changes within the first 20 total points, but UA went on a 14-5 run to close out the Sun Devils andsecure the victory.
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