(Photo: Blake Bernard/WCSN)
No. 24 Arizona State knew that it would take an all-around effort to keep pace with No. 1 USC. The Sun Devils played well defensively, but could not play at a consistent high level to get the win.
In the first set the Sun Devils hit efficiently, posting a hitting percentage of .379. At the top of the Sun Devils in terms of hitting was senior middle blocker Whitney Follette was perfect in the set with five kills on five attempts. Right behind Follette was junior opposite BreElle Bailey who had four kills on nine attempts with two errors, they would finish with 12 and 18, respectively.
ASU knew it had to shut down one of the nations top players in senior Samantha Bricio. The Sun Devils came out strong defensively tallying three blocks, and they forced Bricio to make four hitting errors.
The second set was different for ASU as this time it was the Sun Devils who had trouble putting the ball down. Their hitting percentage for the match dropped to .250, as the Sun Devils hit with a percentage of .154 in the second set.
Bricio had eight kills to increase her total to 14 in the match, also improving her hitting percentage to .346.
The Sun Devils did a good job of keeping the rest of the Trojans in check though, as through two sets ASU had 22 digs. Leading the way defensively for the Sun Devils was sophomore libero Halle Harker who had 8, and finished with 23.
“Every single team we treat the same,” Harker said. “We scout every team the same. We practice the same. We prepare the same. Sometimes you just feel it and sometimes you do not.”
One aspect of the game that was going particularly well for the Sun Devils was the assists. Especially senior setter Bianca Arellano who had 20 assists through the first three sets to help give the Sun Devils a 2-1 advantage in sets. Arellano would finish the match with 25.
“We just had to be really good over time,” senior middle blocker Whitney Follette said. “I think that is what we did over the first couple of sets.”
The Sun Devils, however, had trouble staying consistent for long stretches of time. They would go stretches battling points out with the Trojans, but also have stretches where it seemed as if the hitters could not find the court. Against the No. 1 team it’s imperative that a team keep pace all match long.
Evidence of this inconsistency came in the fourth set. ASU committed nine more hitting errors than actual kills, five.
“Offensively we really struggled in the opening of game four,” ASU head coach Jason Watson said. “We could not get back into it. That was pretty disappointing for all of us.”
In the last two sets the Sun Devils had trouble containing sophomore opposite Brittany Abercrombie who tallied five kills on nine swings. USC needed someone to step up alongside Bricio, and Abercrombie found holes in the Sun Devils defense.
“I thought early in the match I though we were lined up pretty good on Abercrombie,” Watson said. “I do not know if the tempo of their set changed. She certainly did carve us up toward the latter stages.”
Ultimately, the Sun Devils put up a strong fight against No. 1 USC, but the lack of consistency did them in.
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