(Photo: Trey Lanthier/WCSN)
The No. 17 Arizona State Sun Devils finish off a tough home stand with a comparatively easy matchup against the struggling Washington State Cougars on Sunday. ASU will look to get back to their winning ways after dropping two matches to top-5 teams in consecutive weekends.
The Sun Devils started off strong in front of 4,185 fans on Friday against Washington, but the No. 3 Huskies quickly found a rhythm on their way to a three-set sweep. A bright spot in the loss was the stellar play of junior middle blocker Whitney Follette, who played in her first game back from injury after not playing since Sept. 13 vs Morehead State. Her presence was felt early and often as she led the team with a .389 hitting percentage to go along with eight kills. That was not enough however, as the dominating Huskies’ offense was too much to handle, giving the Sun Devils their sixth loss of the season and fourth loss in Pac-12 play.
The Cougars come into Tempe searching for their first win in Pac-12 play after their latest loss at No. 16 Arizona in four sets. Defense was apparent for both teams throughout the entirety of the match as both teams were held below a .160 hitting percentage. WSU will have to limit the Sun Devils’ powerful hitters with blocks and defense if they want to break their losing streak.
What To Watch For
After coming up short in their previous two games, the Sun Devils will need to try to get some points on the board and get the offense rolling early in the match to prevent it from turning into a defensive battle. Watch for the combo of Follette and junior outside hitter Macey Gardner as they are the difference makers in this game, as ASU’s success hinges heavily on offensive firepower. If the Sun Devils can get into a rhythm and limit the amount of mental errors, this match could end fairly quickly.
For the Cougars to have a chance in this one, they will have to keep it close in every set, using the same stingy defense that has hurt opponents’ hitting percentages all throughout the season. They will also need a near-perfect game from sophomore outside hitter Kyra Holt, who leads Washington State with 218 kills on the year, including 30 in last week’s matches. A combination of flawless defense and offensive execution could create problems for the talented Sun Devils.
ASU has recorded the second-most kills in the Pac-12 this season with a total of 915, and their offense will still not be stopped Sunday as the Sun Devils will cruise in straight sets to improve to 4-4 in Pac-12 play to set them up for another tough road trip that starts with Oregon next weekend.