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Volleyball hoping to rebound

Sophomore setter Cat Highmark keeps the ball in the air against UA on Friday.(Branden Eastwood | The State Press)

The ASU volleyball team returns home this weekend to face No. 21 Washington State and No. 5 Washington and will look to snap an eight-match losing streak.

Facing multiple ranked opponents in one weekend has become normal for ASU (11-10, 1-8 Pac-10), as eight Pac-10 teams are currently in the top 25.

Despite the long losing streak, the team is staying positive. The Sun Devils held another installment of Wacky Wednesday this week, and laughs were had all around at the costumes.

“The little things like Wacky Wednesday bring our spirits up; we kind of did it this week to pump ourselves up and to bring our esteem up again,” senior middle blocker Paige Mittelstaedt said. “We’ve been pretty good with our chemistry, too, so we’ve been staying close and we know what we need to do and we all talk about it in the locker room.”

Coach Jason Watson said he believes his team is close to a turnaround and has marveled at the way the Sun Devils haven’t given up as they continue to show an impressive work ethic.

“I think they’re handling it well,” Watson said. “It’s clearly frustrating for them, because I think you can only hear ‘we’re so close’ so many times before you need to see some kind of tangible result, but we are close.

“They’re still in their routines, they’re still coming to practice early, they’re still watching an enormous amount of film, and I’m consistently amazed at how diligent they are, even though we’re in this losing streak.”

Earlier this season, the Sun Devils lost to both of this week’s opponents in Seattle and Pullman, respectively.

Against WSU, ASU took a 2-1 lead but dropped the last two sets in heart-breaking fashion. Against UW, the Sun Devils were swept 3-0, but ASU kept it close in two of the three sets.

Preparing for an opponent that you’ve already played has its advantages and disadvantages, Watson said.

“I think it’s a little easier to prepare because we know what to expect,” he said. “But in the same sense, it’s a little harder to prepare, because you’ve seen them before and you assume what happened last time is going to happen again, and so we’re just trying to ensure we don’t take anything for granted.”

The Sun Devils will open up the weekend series against WSU (16-4, 5-4) on Friday night.

The Cougars have been the surprise of the Pac-10 this season, as they were picked to finish last in the preseason coaches’ poll but have instead already secured an NCAA Tournament bid.

Additionally, the Cougars beat rival UW 3-1 last weekend in dominating fashion.

The Cougars are led by senior setter Renee Bordelon, a former walk-on who is third in the conference in assists per set with 11.56.

The Cougars also feature two middle blockers that are in the conference top 10 in hitting percentage in junior Brittany Tillman and senior Cassie Robbins.

ASU finishes out the weekend against UW (17-2, 7-2) on Sunday afternoon.

The Huskies have been ranked in the top five in the country all season and are looking for their 11th straight victory over ASU.

The Huskies are led by senior libero Tamari Miyashiro, the two-time reigning National Defensive Player of the Year.

Sophomore middle blocker Bianca Rowland leads the Pac-10 in hitting percentage, and as a team, the Huskies lead the Pac-10 in that category.

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