Arizona State volleyball made its season debut Mullett Arena with a 3-0 statement victory against Arizona.
The atmosphere inside the sold-out Mullett Arena was electric, as the Sun Devils sought to avenge its 3-2 loss to the Wildcats at home last season. Thursday night's sweep was the Sun Devils' 10th of the season, and seventh in a row. First-year head coach JJ Van Niel said he was excited about the victory and said this year's volleyball team is "a special group."
“Any win against your rival is a good night,” head coach JJ Van Niel said in a press conference. “I'm fired up about our team and our execution."
In the first set, the Sun Devils and Wildcats battled closely. However, ASU emerged victorious with a hard-fought 25-22 win due to their aggressive play on both offense and defense.
The two teams had a thrilling back-and-forth battle in the second set, where the Wildcats even held a 15-13 lead at one point. But, the Sun Devils rallied in the the back half of the set to take a 2-0 lead overall, putting the Wildcats on the ropes. The Sun Devils then cruised to to a 25-15 win in the third set, sealing the victory.
Senior opposite hitter Marta Levinska has been an impact player for ASU all year, and tonight was no different as she recorded 19 kills in the match. She said being in the rocking atmosphere in Tempe helped the team.
“It's super exciting,” Levinska said in a press conference. “We've been on the road for five weeks, so we're super excited to be home and see all the fans and our families. Everything just feels homey and comfortable. The support was great, and I loved it.”
Graduate student setter Shannon Shields contributed to the Sun Devils’ victory with five kills and six digs. She said Van Niel was proud of the team's consistency and poise throughout the match.
“I feel like in that moment, no one was panicked," Shields said in a press conference. "We knew what we had to do, we just stayed with our offense."
Levinska and Shields acknowledged libero Mary Shroll for her contributions to the victory with 11 digs. Shields and Shroll played together as teammates in high school, and have been reunited in Tempe.
"She's just as calm, so she knows how to calm the situation down," Shields said. "She knows how to be aggressive, and she hypes everyone up."
The Sun Devils will look to remain undefeated when they welcome Washington on Sunday at 1 p.m. on the 50th anniversary of the debut of the Sun Devil volleyball program at Mullett Arena.
Edited by Alfred Smith III, Walker Smith and Shane Brennan