(Photo: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
The regular season is now over, but that does not matter for Arizona State as they earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Sun Devils will be traveling to Austin Texas today, returning to the national tournament for the third time in three years.
“This validates that this is a school that can have success with its volleyball program,” head coach Jason Watson said. “But the next challenge is to stay in the tournament longer.”
Although making it to the tournament is one accomplishment, how far a team goes also determines their success. That has been the biggest issue for the Sun Devils as they have lost in the first round the past two years. However, like a lot of successful teams, they all have to go through growing pains to reach their full potential.
“We have learned to deal with the routines, to deal with the emotions, to deal with the pressure that comes with it,” Watson said. “You lose you’re done. You don’t play that many tournaments like this one, but that’s what makes this sport special.”
Four years ago, the Sun Devils struggled during the regular season and did not make it to the tournament. Watson has been with the ASU program for seven seasons and described the season as ‘one of the worst seasons ever.’ That was before the time arrival of outside hitter Macey Gardner. This is Gardner’s third year playing for ASU and the program has still had its ups and downs, but having a three-time All Pac-12 player has greatly influenced ASU’s winning ability. With the team compiling of one senior, Gardner and the rest of the team has found a way to win.
“This year we are more mature, and we know what we need to do to win,” Gardner said. “It’s just a matter of taking care of the opportunities that we have. As long as we take care of business we can be back in the gym next week.”
Chemistry has been the glue for this Sun Devil team over the years, which is one of the biggest factors of their success in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.
“I am a little emotional because this could be (Shannan McCready)’s last time playing in our gym. I don’t want that to happen I want more days in the gym with these girls.” Gardner said.
Going into the first round of the tournament playing a tough Texas A&M team, emotions and adrenaline run high for the Sun Devils, but they use that to fuel them.
The Sun Devils hope to move on to the second round of the tournament, but they have to take on the Texas A&M Aggies in Austin Texas at 3:30 p.m. today. It’s lose or go home and the stakes could not be higher.