(Photo credit: Christian Coates/WCSN)
On Saturday afternoon, the No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils volleyball squad will square off against the hometown Morehead State Eagles to finish off the Comfort Inn & Suites Invitational in Morehead, Kentucky. ASU looks to bounce back after a very challenging Friday slate of games which resulted in getting swept by Louisville and barely edging Northern Illinois in a marathon match of five sets.
The Sun Devils received their first setback of the year, and it came at the hands of the explosive, balanced attack of the Cardinals. Junior outside hitter Macey Gardner led ASU with 11 kills and fellow junior middle blocker Whitney Follette added seven kills, but it was no match for Janelle Jenkins and Louisville as they cruised to a easy victory to hand the Sun Devils their first loss on the season.
It looked as if the slide would continue as ASU fell behind two sets to Northern Illinois, but they battled back behind Gardner, who led the lineup with 19 kills and 10 digs. The Sun Devils ended up pulling out a hard fought victory 3-2 (23-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-10).
Morehead State limps into this contest after being swept by both Louisville and Northern Illinois. Struggling has been an understatement, as the Eagles are winless through eight games, and they show no signs of changing that after a lackluster performance on offense on Friday. Morehead State will have to find some answers if they even want a shot at upsetting Arizona St.
What To Watch For
The Sun Devils have been inconsistent at times during the early part of the season, most notably when they begin matches, and it showed against Louisville and Northern Illinois. They came out flat in both games, forcing them to play from behind for the majority of the match. Look for ASU to come out hungry and on fire, desperate to prove that they are worthy of that top-25 ranking. A healthy dose of Gardner, Follette, and sophomore outside hitter BreElle Bailey should do the trick as that relentless attack will look to catch the Eagles off guard early.
Morehead State needs someone on their team to step up and make some plays if they want to turn their season around. Sophomore libero Hope Rillema can’t do it alone, as her team leading nine digs against the Huskies were far from enough in that loss. If the Eagles want any chance to salvage a victory, they will have to drastically improve upon .108 attack percentage and .074 hitting clip in their previous games this weekend. Offensive production has been a big issue, and they will need each and every person in that lineup to perform to the best of their abilities to defeat the dangerous Sun Devils.
ASU will start off strong and not backslide against the weak and inexperienced Morehead State squad. The Eagles’ inability to establish a rhythm on offense will be the difference-maker as the Sun Devils sweep them and end the weekend off with an 8-1 record.