(Photo: Trey Lanthier/WCSN)
After nearly a month off the court due to injury, Whitney Follette is back. The junior middle blocker returned to the No. 17 Sun Devils as she made her first appearance last Friday since September 13th.
During the week of Follette’s return, there was some concern on whether or not she would be ready to play. ASU head coach Jason Watson made a game time decision and decided to play Follette against the No. 3 Washington Huskies. Follette looked like her old self as she put up eight kills, one error, and once again had the highest hitting percentage on the team. Even though the Sun Devils lost in straight sets, seeing Follette play well was a personal win for ASU.
She was back in action against Washington State that Sunday and continued her high-qualityplay. Follette racked up 10 kills and six blocks to help her team defeat the Cougars in a five set grudge match.
“She is remarkable. She comes back and hits .300 then has 6 blocks today (against Washington State). She just loves playing the game,” Watson said. “I mean how can you not love Whitney Follette?”
Follette missed over half of conference play due to abdominal pain that she experienced in Kentucky. She stayed in a Kentucky hospital for a few nights in order to recover from surgery.
During Follette’s absence, junior middle blocker Mercedes Binns moved to the M1 position and junior middle blocker Andi Lowrance filled in the M2 spot and Follette sat on the side while watching her team go 5-4.
“The fact that I had to miss the first half of conference play was really sucky,” Follette said. “I’m really excited to just be back out there, and be competitive, and to work hard.”
When Follette is on the court, she provides more than just kills and blocks. A healthy and effective Follette does more than put up solid numbers. Her presence demands more attention from opposing teams’ middle blockers than Lowrance does, no matter how well Lowrance did play in Follette’s absence.
“When Whitney works hard, it draws the attention off the outside, so it definitely opens up space which helps a lot.” Junior outside hitter Kizzy Willey said.
Even though her play is what makes her stand out to the crowd, her team comments that it is Follette’s mindset and personality during practices, matches and moments outside of volleyball that makes her teammates love and respect her.
“She brings a new atmosphere and a new attitude to the court,” Willey said. “I love playing with her, and she has a big impact on the team.”
Her impact might not only put points on the board, but also might impact ASU’s win-loss record. An improving Follette means an improving team. The Sun Devils are 4-4 in conference play and as they continue to play top ranked teams in the Pac-12, they will have to rely more on Follette’s ability to put the ball away when the game is tight and provide the emotional boost her teammates enjoy.