(Photo: Elaine Wilson/WCSN)
No. 10 Arizona State took on the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks for the first home game of the season. The Sun Devils were able to take care of the Lumberjacks in four sets (25-17, 13-25, 25-13, 25-20).
In the first set, the Sun Devils found themselves off to a hot start. Behind some strong hitting, ASU was able to pull out in front of the Lumberjacks. One of the main problems for the Lumberjacks were the missed serves, as they tallied five in the set. ASU found its offense clicking when they totaled 14 kills with a hitting percentage of .375. The Sun Devils also racked up three blocks in the set.
Early in the second set, ASU head coach Jason Watson was forced to call a timeout when NAU pulled out to a 9-4 lead. The key to the Lumberjacks play was the blocking as ASU could not get anything past NAU’s front line.
Things kept getting better for the Lumberjacks as ASU called its second timeout when the Lumberjacks went on a 6-1 run to push the score to 15-5. The Sun Devils were never able to respond as the Lumberjacks defense held the Sun Devil hitting to a percentage of -.079 in the set.
ASU came out of the break looking determined as it opened up to an early 8-4 lead in set three. The team never looked back as it worked its way up to a 21-10 lead. The Sun Devils finished off the set on an ace by junior outside hitter Cassidy Pickrell. Senior outside hitter Macey Gardner seemed to take a bulk of the swings for the Sun Devil offense. She put down five kills in the set, and she would eventually finish with 11.
“She, I thought, had this nice little mismatch that we could exploit,” ASU head coach Jason Watson said.
During the match, Gardner became the 10th Sun Devil to accumulate both 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs.
In the fourth set, the Sun Devils found themselves going toe-to-toe with the Lumberjacks as the set opened up to a 11-8 score. However, the Sun Devil blocking looked strong as they totaled six blocks to put them up 15-8. ASU was forced to call a timeout when the Lumberjacks went on an 8-3 run. However, the Sun Devils offense proved too strong as they capped off the fourth set on a Gardner kill.
The Sun Devils blocking game looked strong once again as they had the second-highest total of the season with 14 total blocks. Junior opposite BreElle Bailey stood out in particular, accounting for 10 of those blocks herself.
“For a long time we haven’t put much value in blocking,” Watson said. “For a couple years, we’ve put an emphasis on our ability to dig.”
ASU will be back in action on Sunday against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at 2 p.m.