(Photo: Courtney Pedroza/WCSN)
Quiet as it’s kept, junior outside hitter BreElle Bailey has emerged as one of Arizona State’s top hitters in recent weeks. Amidst a bevy of changes to lineups and formations, Bailey has been a stabilizing presence on the right side and most recently as an outside hitter.
Bailey has seen steady improvement since coming onto campus as a freshman in 2013. In her freshman year, she gained All Pac-12 Freshman honors and followed with an All Pac-12 Honorable Mention as a sophomore. Now, as a junior, she is playing some of the best volleyball of her career.
ASU head coach Jason Watson talks a lot about the difference in having “knowns” and “unknowns,” and up until the injuries to Macey Gardner and Kizzy Ricedorff, almost everything was known for the Sun Devils. There was a team-wide understanding of roles, and in the matches that followed, Bailey talked about how the team hasn’t fully fallen into a groove in their new lineup.
“We still are kind of figuring out our roles,” Bailey said. “As our performances have been showing, we haven’t quite gotten it right yet, so he (Watson) is still kind of experimenting with a few things.”
For Bailey specifically, her new role means she becomes more of a focal point offensively. On right side, she has had more swings and in turn more kills over the last few weeks – double-digits in four of her last six matches. Most recently, she made the switch to the left side for ASU’s four-set loss to California, which she said wasn’t too difficult to make.
“To me, it’s just a different position on the court, nothing new skill or technique wise,” Bailey said. “It wasn’t too difficult. Even though I’ve been playing right side, he’s (Watson) had me hitting outside on a lot of the rotations.”
Bailey looked fairly comfortable as an outside hitter against California. She had 12 kills to go along with two block assists. While the Sun Devils ultimately lost the match in four sets, her offense was key to their ability to stay afloat.
Bailey has taken on a much bigger role in the last few matches. Watson is not surprised that she has handled the change so smoothly. While this bigger role was inevitable once this year’s seniors left, Bailey’s ability to take on the change this year has been incredibly helpful to the team overall.
“With all the changes, with everything that’s going on, she’s had to carry a larger role,” Watson said. “We didn’t know that it was going to be this year, but we always knew that she was going to have to. We’re proud of her.”
One thing Bailey pointed out is that she feels as though a big difference for her this year and especially recently has been adjusting her mentality for matches.
“I’ve been trying to focus not so much on our opponents and what they’re doing on their side of the net,” Bailey said. “I’m just trying to focus on my game, and I think that’s the biggest difference from previous years.”
With this new mentality, Bailey has produced some incredibly efficient matches and the Sun Devils will need her to continue to perform at a high level. The two Washington schools, No. 3 Washington Huskies and unranked Washington State, both of which swept ASU earlier in the season, come to Tempe in what is a pivotal weekend in ASU’s season.