(Photo: Christian Coates/WCSN)
The No. 17 Sun Devils hope to continue their winning ways after an upset over then-No.17 Hawaii last weekend.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (3-0) will begin their home schedule this week, hosting the Residence Inn Challenge in Tempe where they will square off against UAB and Idaho State on Friday in Wells Fargo Arena.
After a big upset over Hawaii, ASU is riding high, clawing their way up the rankings by two spots. The efforts of outside hitter Macey Gardner led the charge, as she had a dominating performance in the tournament, including a 16-kill effort against the Rainbow Wahine. She ended up finishing as the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational Most Outstanding Player for her play.
Even with a tough matchup versus the Iowa Hawkeyes looming on Sunday, the Sun Devils will look to focus on the task at hand, eyeing a sweep of the day’s games to emerge on Friday with a 5-0 record on the season.
ASU first has the task of handling the UAB Blazers, who come into this tournament sporting a 2-1 record after their opening weekend. Though the Blazers are the clear underdogs, they come to Tempe with their share of athletic talent.
Junior outside hitter Sydney Nelson is riding a hot streak, leading UAB in kills with 36 and a hitting percentage of .347. Look for the Blazers to feed her early and often as they try to take down the experienced and dangerous ASU squad. Another UAB strength is its defense, holding opponents to a .203 hitting percentage.
This formidable front is spearheaded by sophomore middle blocker Gabby Deshotel, who is also a threat on offense, accumulating seven service aces along with 27 kills. ASU will have their hands full scoring points against UAB’s defensive-minded play.
vs. Idaho St
The second game of the day pits ASU against the Idaho State Bengals. The Bengals opened their season losing two of their first three games, with their lone win coming against Saint Mary’s. Though they seem to be struggling to begin the year, Idaho St can prove to be competitive if overlooked. Redshirt junior outside hitter Tressa Lyman leads the Bengals with 43 kills on the season. The Sun Devils should coast to an easy win, but if they are caught being lazy and going through the motions, expect some problems to be presented and the game to be much closer than expected.
If the Sun Devils can continue their strong start with Gardner anchoring the squad, it should set up nicely for their Sunday matchup against Iowa as well as for games in the future. Keeping the consistency from their first couple games will be the mindset in their quest to continue climbing the NCAA rankings.
Both games can be watched live here.