After starting 12-0 in non-conference play, the Sun Devils look forward to entering Pac-12 competition and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ASU volleyball program in its season opener at Mullett Arena.
ASU has been on the road for the last four weeks, resulting in their third-best start in program history. It's the second time in non-conference play the Sun Devils have been undefeated in the first half of the 21st century —an ideal start for head coach JJ Van Niel, who is in his first season at ASU.
"The time on the road has done this team many favors this season," Van Niel said. "Playing against tough competition and learning to balance a working schedule.”
But Van Niel and his team couldn’t be more fired up to head back to their home court this weekend finally.
"We’ve been looking forward to this moment all year," senior middle blocker Claire Jeter said. "There isn’t a doubt in my mind we won’t perform the same way we’ve been all season."
Jeter said that beating all the teams they’ve faced so far has proven a lot for this team. Hoping that all who come to watch will see them as 'real competitors,' saying that not one team will believe they have a chance against (them) head-to-head.
ASU hopes to show what they’ve got as they welcome a crowd of proud alumni and fans to watch their game against the Washington Huskies on September 24 — a very important date dedicated to the 50th anniversary of ASU volleyball.
"It’s gonna be a really special day," Van Niel said. "Many alumni are working hard behind the scenes to get this going. I’m excited to see all the amazing people coming here."
One event in particular is a gathering of all possible alumni and current players to hold a luncheon. Where personal connections can be made and experiences shared.
"Gaining insight from other people's stories and making new connections by building off old ones is what I'm most excited about," ASU graduate and former player Callie Jones said.
Jones is a Phoenix local who played at ASU for three seasons before she graduated in 2019. She is one of the alumni who is helping plan the weekend events.
Jones said this is a special moment for her, especially getting one-on-one time with the players now, as she hopes to inform them of just how extraordinary college athletics is, and a moment like this is to celebrate.
"I want them to know that you'll never have an experience like this again," Jones said. "Playing at college level is something special, so make the most of it. Build from the opportunities that you’re given for the number of years that you're there. Enjoy your time on and off the court with your team. Just love the time you have. Enjoy it all. I know I did."
Since her graduation, Jones has been around to see how much this program has changed for the better, and she can’t wait to see the team that's been unstoppable in person.
"Watching new girls come in and embrace the culture of our team and seeing girls build upon what you created when you were there is special," Jones said. "Setting new traditions successes, just seeing each team make their own experiences out of the program is thrilling to watch."
Jones said one of this team’s highest compliments is their undeniable team chemistry. She gives credit to Van Niel for his apparent commitment toward that, as it's not easy winning games because it takes a lot of good quality chemistry to take on teams, and they have that.
With all this anticipation from alums and Sun Devil fans, ASU will try to bounce off their six straight sweeps with the assistance of Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week Marta Levinska, graduate setter Shannon Shield, and graduate libero Mary Shroll, who were recently named to the All-Tournament team after their efforts in the Beale Street Challenge.
ASU's six sweeps are its second-longest streak of sweeps in team history since 1995, and the Sun Devils aren't near satisfied with the team's success.
"We’re coming in hungry," Jeter said.
Edited by Alfred Smith III, Walker Smith and Grace Copperthite.