(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
The Sun Devils were not able to bear down against the Bruins today as UCLA clawed their way to a straight-set victory (25-23, 25-20, 25-21) over Arizona State.
Behind star outside hitter Karsta Lowe, the Bruins started off hot and never looked back. Lowe led all scorers with five first-set kills and 17 overall.
It was the long front line of UCLA that gave ASU trouble. The Bruins totaled 12 blocks and 43 kills compared to the Sun Devils’ 9 and 30, respectively.
The lone bright spot for the Sun Devils was Nora Tuioti-Mariner. For the first time this season, she played nearly the entire match at outside hitter.
McKenzie Willey started but didn’t stay in long. ASU head coach Jason Watson said there is no injury.
Tuioti-Mariner came in, and the junior took full advantage of her opportunity. She led the Sun Devils with nine kills and was second on the team with a .227 hitting percentage.
“I thought I did okay, but after every loss, you always question yourself if you could have done better,” said Tuioti-Mariner. “I think I did pretty good. The outcome just wasn’t as I expected.”
The trend of Macey Gardner playing poorly in losses continued today. Gardner had just eight kills and they came with seven hitting errors. She also had three of ASU’s eight service errors.
Arizona State has now dropped six of their last seven matches and sit at 2-6 in conference play. The No. 22 Sun Devils hope to remain ranked after failing to win a set at home against the two Southern California schools this weekend.
If they want a chance at a National Tournament bid, the season will need to turn around in a dramatic way toward the latter half of the Pac-12 schedule, but optimism is not high in the eyes of Watson at the moment.
“We’re really not very good right now. It’s hard to imagine six weeks ago the team we had and now we’re here,” Watson said. “There’s time, but I’m really struggling right now to figure out where we go from here. “
This is not an unfamiliar place to the Sun Devils. There are plenty of fresh faces this year, but ASU had the exact same record in conference play at this point last year.
That may not make things any easier. Next week the Sun Devils go to Utah and Colorado, which will also present a unique challenge, as no team in the NCAA has won in Colorado yet this year.