ASU volleyball prepares to be tested in toughest stretch of the season

The team will face No. 16 Cal and No. 2 Stanford in back to back games

The Sun Devil volleyball team faces the toughest stretch of its schedule this upcoming weekend, facing No. 16 Cal and No. 2 Stanford in back to back games.

ASU has split its four games so far in Pac-12 play, and has played inconsistently since its win versus Arizona in the conference opener.

With two of the best teams of the Pac-12 awaiting, the Sun Devils will need to quickly turn around and elevate their level of play.

Cal is one of the most efficient teams in the conference, leading the Pac-12 in hitting percentage, as well as ranking fifth in kills per set and fourth in points per set.

“They’re a good team that stays disciplined over time,” coach Sanja Tomasevic said. “They’re very efficient in their middle, their slide hitter and their right side.”

Tomasevic noted multiple aspects of her team's game that need to be executed to win against Cal, including serving well and blocking at the net.

“We’re going to have to serve good and going to have to execute the game plan blocking-wise,” Tomasevic said. “We’re going to have to be efficient defensively and our transition defensive packages are going to have to work against them.”

The coach has also stressed the need to get their middle blockers going over the past two games. This came after their outside hitters hit a combined -3 percent while getting blocked nine times in their loss to Utah.

While scoring a combined 15 kills across the past two games, junior middle blocker Megan Beedie has averaged only 3.86 kill attempts across those two games, a number Tomasevic said needs to increase.

“For our offensive system, we have to get our middles going,” Tomasevic said. “We have to have our middles efficient in order to open up our pins.”

Players noted that they need to be methodical and focused on the court in order to win at any point over the weekend.

“We have to be disciplined and play clean,” senior libero Courtney Leffel said. “Be disciplined at the net, be disciplined in the back row, be disciplined serving, be disciplined in playing who can play longest.”

Senior outside hitter Ivana Jeremic admits that the Sun Devils have suffered mental lapses at certain points in games. This is something that has become a large point of emphasis for the group.

“Stay dialed in throughout the entire match,” Jeremic said when asked about the biggest focus for the team. “We had people, including me, checking out throughout the set. We can’t have those moments.”

Stanford will pose an even bigger challenge for the Sun Devils, as it is one the best programs in the nation. They currently boast one of the five best offenses in the NCAA, including senior Kathryn Plummer, who leads the Pac-12 in average kills per set.

The two game set echoes a similar scenario the team faced in 2018 when they swept No. 12 Oregon and No. 15 Washington a week apart from each other.

ASU will need to put all the pieces together in order to win either of the two games they are surely seen as underdogs in.

"We want to approach every day as an opportunity to get better," Tomasevic said. "We have to believe the process, each one of us individually getting one percent better."

The Sun Devils will face No. 16 Cal on Friday at 7 p.m. MST.


Reach the reporter at jhorst2@asu.edu and follow @HorseySeven on Twitter.

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