(Photo: Trey Lanthier/WCSN)
The No. 19 Arizona State volleyball team struggled yet again against the pesky Oregon State Beavers squad and could not complete the comeback in a five set marathon defeat (25-22, 22-25, 22-25, 25-18, 12-15) Thursday night at Wells Fargo Arena. The loss gives the Beavers the sweep in the season series and drops the Sun Devils to 7-8 in the Pac-12.
“Clearly we have a long way to go,” ASU head coach Jason Watson said. “It is incredibly disappointing.”
After failing to find an offensive rhythm in the first couple sets, junior outside hitter Macey Gardner started putting together a show in Tempe, finishing the match with 22 kills and a .174 hitting percentage. Both teams eyed a victory in the intense match-clinching fifth set, going back-and-forth with long rally after long rally. OSU freshman outside hitter Mary-Kate Marshall would not be denied however, leading her team to a victory with her 28 kills.
“Oregon State was much better tonight,” Watson said. “We had some good looks but we couldn’t get it done.”
The script seemed to flip in the fourth set as the Sun Devils snapped out of their slump. Gaining confidence off a couple key blocks from junior middle blocker Mercedes Binns and sophomore outside hitter BreElle Bailey, ASU found its groove on its way to a 17-10 lead. The Beavers tried to mount a comeback but it was in vain as a Gardner strike puts the set away and forces a deciding fifth set.
“We kind of struggled finding the shots at first, but later on in the match, we found where we needed to hit,” Gardner said.
The Beavers took the momentum from the second set and transferred it to the third set, accounting for kill after kill on the back of Marshall, who tallied five kills in the set. She ran the show for OSU on its way to a dominating 20-13 lead. Gardner and Willey did all they could bringing the Sun Devils to as close as two points, but the Beavers closed the door and took the lead in the match 2-1.
It was a back-and-forth second set, complete with nine tied scores. Neither team could get a considerable advantage over the other. The Sun Devils could not get it going on the block, being out-blocked 6-2 up to this point. OSU senior middle blocker Amanda Brown led the Beaver block party with three, ending the match with five blocks. ASU stayed competitive in the set however, with crucial and timely digs, tallying 47 compared to the Beavers’ 39. It was not enough though, as OSU claimed the set 25-22 and tied the match at one.
The first set started off sloppy from both sides, with each posting five attack errors. Gardner struggled to get going early in the set, posting a measly .000 hitting percentage. The entire Sun Devil squad eventually settled down, pulled away, and clinched the set 25-22 with a balanced attack led by sophomore outside hitter McKenzie Willey and her four kills. She finished the match with 15 kills and added two blocks.
The road for ASU does not get any easier, as they return to Wells Fargo Arena Saturday night to face off against the Oregon Ducks at 8 p.m.