(Photo: Marie Bernadette Obsuna/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils opened up the month of November with a straight set loss last night against the No. 25 USC Trojans.
It does not get any easier for the Sun Devils, as they face the No. 9 UCLA Bruins on Saturday night.
Coming into the match, the two teams are at opposite sides of the spectrum.
UCLA is 18-5 on the season, and 9-4 in conference play. On the other hand, ASU is 9-16 this season, and 2-11 in Pac-12 play.
UCLA boasts an offense that is going to be hard to stop. The Bruins rank third in the country in assists per set with 13.71, and fifth in the country in kills per set with 14.58.
The Sun Devils have struggled against good offenses this year. Of the top six teams in kills per set in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils were beaten in straight sets by four of them. One of those teams to beat ASU in straight sets was UCLA earlier this year in October.
A major reason ASU has struggled in combating efficient offenses is because of its inability to block.
The Sun Devils rank 10th in the Pac-12 in blocks per set with just 2.18.
“It’s about being able to adjust when the other team adjusts,” senior outside hitter Maya McClendon said. “We have to be able to be adaptable when people make changes.”
Two players for the Bruins who can cause a lot of problems for the Sun Devils are senior outside hitter Jordan Anderson and senior middle blocker Jennie Frager.
Anderson is ninth of all Pac-12 hitters in kills per set, and Frager ranks third in the Pac-12 in hitting percentage, converting swings to points at a 37.4% rate this season.
While two seniors lead the Bruins, it seems to be two freshmen who are leading the Sun Devils.
Freshman outside hitter Ivana Jeremic has seen consistent playing time this season, with more and more attempts each match.
“I started playing all six rotations and I started getting more balls,” Jeremic said. “I’m trying to hit everything and get better at my defense.”
Jeremic is third on the team in kills with 168.
The second freshman is one who was just recently inserted into the starting line. Freshman setter Nicole Peterson got the start and ran the offense on Friday night against USC.
“It’s my job to make sure we stay together as a team and get the hitters some balls that they can kill,” Peterson said. “It’s really nice to know my coaches believe in me that I’m ready to run it.”
The two freshman will have to step up and play big in tonight’s game if the Sun Devils are to bounce back.
Tonight’s game between ASU and UCLA is set to start at 6 P.M. PT and can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks.
If you have any questions, you can contact John Engelbert via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @john_engz.