(Photo: Trey Lanthier/WCSN)
The No.19 Arizona State volleyball team hopes to start the home stretch of the season with a tally in the win column and avenge an early-season loss against the unranked Oregon State Beavers. The Sun Devils need to find some sort of consistency to rise up and raise their Pac-12 record above .500.
ASU has been playing better as of late, pushing undefeated No.1 Stanford to the brink in a five set thriller and then responding by ending strong in a four-set victory against California. Defense was the focus in the Bears match as defensive specialists Shannon McCready and Mia Mazon and freshman libero Halle Harker combined to total 45 digs in the match. Their defensive identity seemed to be found in this game but the trick is combining that with an offensive rhythm, something that looks to be a challenge to the Sun Devils. They will need both in full force to put away the pesky Beavers.
OSU is coming off a battle against the undefeated No.2 Washington Huskies, in which they fell in three sets. The Beavers were playing from behind for most of the match but did make it interesting upon closing the gap in some of the sets. Even in the loss, junior libero Darby Reeder finished with 10 digs which put her at the 11th most digs in school history, one shy of entering the top-10. Reeder will need to be at the top of her game against the Sun Devils’ relentless attack.
Junior outside hitter Macey Gardner vs OSU defense
Gardner struggled the last time that these two teams faced off, posting only 13 kills with a measly .143 hitting percentage. The reason for this was the impressive defense of the Beavers, which tallied a dominating 62 digs and held the entire ASU team to a combined .185 hitting percentage on their way to a three-set sweep. To avoid having the same result this time around, Gardner will have to be fed early by setter Bianca Arellano to get her fully in-sync with the offense. Watch for Gardner to find her groove and keep it up throughout the entire match.
ASU junior middle blocker Mercedes Binns vs OSU senior middle blocker Arica Nassar
The Sun Devils, usually strong in their block totals, were held pretty quiet in the last match-up only accounting for seven blocks compared to 12 on the OSU side. Nassar was a big part of that, as her six blocks made it seem like every ASU hit would never make it over the net. Binns, the leading blocker on the Sun Devils, will have her hands full trying to keep up with Nassar as the team that wins the block battle, will most likely win the match.
The Sun Devils have improved since their last meeting with the Beavers and that will show in this vengeance match. The dreams of making the national tournament at the conclusion of the season will fuel Gardner and ASU on their way to a four set victory.