(Photo: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
It’s that time of year again where Arizona State takes the court, and today marks the first day of regular season. The Sun Devils start things off by traveling to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the Falcon Classic where they will play Northeastern, New Mexico State and Air Force.
ASU will open the season against Northeastern at 5:00 p.m., on Friday, August 28. The Paws are coming off a rough 2014 season where they finished 10-20 and lost the last seven games on their schedule. With Northeastern’s season ending early, it looks to get back on track behind last year’s Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Year Brigitte Burcescu. The young outside hitter was the only player on her team that broke 300 kills, totaling 400 by the end of the season.
During the offseason, the Paws lost four seniors, two of them being their biggest defensive weapons. Megan Kehoe, a defensive specialist, and Natalia Skiba, the starting libero, combined for 816 digs last season. Their departure left a hole to be filled, not to mention that there is only one senior on the 2015 roster.
On August 29, the Sun Devils have a busy day as they play New Mexico State at 12:00 p.m. and Air Force at 7:30 p.m.
New Mexico State finished their 2014 campaign 17-11, losing to No. 3 Bakersfield in the WAC Tournament. Luckily, the Aggies got back their two biggest offensive threats: senior outside hitter Bradley Nash and senior middle blocker Gwen Murphy. In 2014, those two powered their way to over 200 kills, both averaging just above two kills per set. Not only is Nash an offensive threat, but her defense keeps her on the court, reaching the team’s third-best 200 digs.
A few hours later, the Sun Devils take on Air Force to wrap up the Falcon Classic. In 2014, the Falcons trudged their way to a 13-19 record against a weak schedule, only having to play one ranked team, No. 6 Colorado State, and lost to them twice. Air Force head coach Matt McShane lost six of his players during the offseason, one of which being the starting setter Hillary Keltner, who finished the year one assist shy of 1,300. Senior libero Rebecca Bates had a fantastic season, totaling 440 digs and 67 assists.
What to watch for
As always for Arizona State, look out for the All-Pac-12 outside hitter, Macey Gardner. Not just because she will be the best outside hitter at the Falcon Classic, but because she will make history as she stands with 1,667 kills and is only two behind Tammy Webb to take the No. 3 spot in ASU history for career kills.
After Gardner makes history, the Sun Devils are going to run away with almost every game. They might lose a few sets here and there, but they will come out of this weekend 3-0. ASU head coach Jason Watson will give his freshmen players some playing time so they can shake the nerves out and get ready for the regular season.