(Photo by: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
In the midst of what seemed like a season for the record books, No. 20 Arizona State has had to make many lineup adjustments the past few weeks.
“We needed to try something,” ASU head coach Jason Watson said. “We needed to see if we could get some kind of continuity there. See if we could get some sort of competitive intensity.”
Lineup changes have been abundant this season for the Sun Devils, who have faced great amounts of adversity. To name a few, senior middle blocker Whitney Follette moved to opposite with freshman middle blocker Jasmine Koonts starting in her place and now junior opposite BreElle Bailey has had to step in at outside.
The Sun Devils have also flirted with switching their offensive system from their typical 6-2 offense to a 5-1. All these changes come under the pressure to turn ASU’s season around before the NCAA tournament, which looms in the distance.
For Follette, the transition from middle to opposite has gone fairly smooth. In fact, the transition has gone so well for the Sun Devils that most people are surprised at the production from Follette. In four out of the six matches that Follette has played at opposite, she has tallied double digit kills, including a season high of 13 against USC.
Follette posted up at the right side has also helped bolster an already strong blocking team in ASU. Follette has amounted 26 total blocks since moving to opposite, and is helping out ASU’s back row defense by being a disruption for the oppositions outside hitters.
Seeing playing time sporadically through the season, Koonts has been a nice surprise for the Sun Devils. For her, this new found starting spot has been all about her growth and development as a player now and in the future. Koonts had two decent games in her stint as a starter against Utah and Colorado. In those games Koonts had 10 kills and hit .472 for the weekend. Putting balls away at a high efficiency, against Stanford she dropped off a little bit, only notching two kills on six attempts with one error, good for a hitting percentage of .167.
Another freshman that has been tested in the offense is outside hitter Lexi MacLean. This transition was seemingly the hardest one that ASU has had to make, given the fact that MacLean was supposed to redshirt this season. To come onto the court and be expected to play at the highest level in one of the best, if not the best, conferences in the country is a difficult challenge to face.
Through MacLean’s first six games she has accumulated 30 kills on 120 attempts with 25 errors, that’s good for a hitting percentage of .043. At first glance that does not seem like a very appealing number; however, when you think of what MacLean has gone through this season, from thinking she was redshirting to becoming a starter in the Pac-12, this one can be chalked up to inexperience.
Usually, ASU runs a 6-2 offense with setters, senior Bianca Arellano and freshman Kylie Pickrell. When Koonts is in, the Watson paired her with Pickrell in order to try and establish a relationship between the two freshman. ASU opted to go with a 5-1 offense in the last match against California, a match which ASU won the first set 25-14, but then dropped the next three losing their sixth conference match. Arellano lead the offense well, ending with 41 assists and three kills, but the system didn’t work the way that the Sun Devils intended it to. Look for ASU to come out against No. 3 Washington back in its normal 6-2 offense.
Finally, another change that may not be permanent is moving junior opposite BreElle Bailey to the outside, which the Sun Devils did in their last match against Cal. After Gardner’s injury Bailey has been the other bright spot for ASU, notching double-digit kills in three of six matches. Bailey even had a season high 16 kills against Colorado. In the last match against the Bears, Bailey found herself playing outside as the Sun Devils transferred back into a 5-1 system. If the 5-1 continues then look for Bailey and junior outside hitter Cassidy Pickrell to shoulder a big load of the Sun Devils offense along with Follette. If ASU transfers back into a 6-2 in the matches to come, though, Bailey should find herself back in her normal spot at opposite.
Only time will tell if the Sun Devils will continue to tinker with their system, but they’re scrambling to find a solution.
If you have any questions or comments, you can contact Jacob Franklin via twitter @Jacob_Franklin4 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.