(Photo: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
For the second consecutive match, an undefeated team came into Wells Fargo Arena and swept the No. 17 Arizona State Sun Devils. This time, the victorious team was the No. 3 Washington Huskies, who continued their perfect season with their sweep of ASU (25-19, 25-20, 25-18).
After a strong start from ASU in the first set, Washington took control behind the efforts of 2013 AVCA Player of the Year Krista Vansant. The senior outside hitter paced the Huskies with 16 kills and 13 digs, but as a team, ASU held the Huskies to a .202 hitting percentage for the match.
“Vansant was below her average, and I just thought from that standpoint, you come in and you’re going to say, ‘Well you’re going hold Washington to .200,’ you’ve got to like your chances at home,” ASU head coach Jason Watson said.
On the other hand, ASU struggled to find a flow offensively. As a team, the Sun Devils hit .103 for the match, and junior outside hitter Macey Gardner was led the way with 11 kills. No other ASU attacker eclipsed double-digit kills.
“It was just hard to score points, really,” Gardner said. “That’s what it comes down to. They worked hard, they were digging balls, and it was hard to win those real points, win the long rallies.”
Similar to the Stanford match, the rallies went long, and ASU struggled to maintain the level of play throughout the match, something Watson and his team had been working on in practice.
“We had been talking, for two weeks now, about playing the game cleaner, longer,” Watson said. “And I thought that’s going to be really hard if they keep giving us free balls and we keep ending the rally by making a hitting error. That’s the opposite of what we’ve been talking about, and that just added to the frustration of the evening.”
ASU freshman opposite BreElle Bailey struggled on the night. On 17 attempts, she tallied just one kill as opposed to seven attacking errors.
“(Bailey) knows. She’s not immune to that kind of stuff,” Watson said. “We need her, and she knows that, and she’s working hard to get better at some stuff, and so we’ll see what happens here.”
Washington’s defensive efforts were paced by junior libero Cassie Strickland, who picked up 11 digs to help lead the charge for the Huskies. She also put plenty of pressure on ASU’s serve receive with her strong jump serve.
“I don’t think we managed their serve very well at all,” Watson said. “I thought they served really well and relentlessly on their targets.”
A bright spot for the Sun Devils was the return of junior blocker Whitney Follette, who had missed the last nine matches following abdominal surgery in mid-September. She put down eight kills, a block and hit at a .389 clip.
“(Follette)’s a presence for us, and it was good that she got out there,” Watson said. “She was going to have to get back out there at some point in time.”
ASU will look to rebound on Sunday at 11 a.m. when they play Washington State, who is winless in Pac-12 play. With the loss, ASU dropped to below .500 in conference play for the first time since they dropped their Pac-12 opener to Arizona.
“Beat Washington State, that’s what it comes down to,” Gardner said. “We need to beat them on Sunday.”
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at email@example.com