(Photo: Blake Benard/WCSN)
The No. 24 Arizona State Sun Devils were defeated in five sets by the No. 1 USC Women of Troy 25-21, 21-25, 25-18, 14-25, 10-15.
The fifth set started even, with the teams swapping the first six points. Perhaps the most emotionally charged moment came on questionable call resulting in both USC taking the lead at 4-3 and sending USC senior Samantha Bricio rotating to the service line.
After that call, USC took control. Fueled by some strong offense, the Women of Troy took a commanding 10-5 lead.
ASU showed the resiliency that has become its identity all season and was able to battle back. The comeback would fall short and USC won the final set 15-10.
USC showed why it’s the No. 1 team in the country in the beginning of the fourth set. With their backs against the wall, the Women of Troy exploded out of the gate leading 8-1. They started the set with eight kills on their first 18 swings with only one error.
Defensively, USC found success as well. In the fourth set, the Women of Troy had three blocks and forced nine Sun Devil errors.
Overall, the set was very sloppy for the Sun Devils. They hit in the negatives and only had two blocks in the set and lost the set 25-14
ASU came out of the gate playing incredibly well and found themselves ahead 10-5. What was working well was their energy. The Sun Devils were out hustling the Women of Troy, scrambling defensively and recording two key blocks.
The Sun Devils offense was incredibly efficient, seeing five hitters record a kill in the set against only three errors. Senior Whitney Follette paced the Sun Devil attack with five kills of her own without an error. They were able to win the first set by a score of 25-21.
The biggest key for ASU was limiting Bricio at the service line. Although she had two aces in the set, the Sun Devils were able to get out of the rotation with her serving very quickly as their serve receive was able to neutralize one of the best serves in the country.
“That’s why I thought (sophomore libero) Halle (Harker) was so good,” ASU head coach Jason Watson said. “I felt like we managed it (Bricio’s serving) and we didn’t let those streaks go.”
The second set started much more in USC’s favor. The Women of Troy were able to find their rhythm offensively and they jumped out to an early lead.
The Sun Devils were able to hang around with USC as they rallied back to tie the set at 15 following a couple kills from junior outside hitter Cassidy Pickrell.
Ultimately, USC was able to win the set by the same score as the first and Bricio brought her team and game-high kills number to 14.
In the third set, the match went back and forth through the first 30 total points. The Sun Devils came out sluggish but battled back to take a 15-14 lead.
With the score 17-15, USC head coach Mick Haley took a timeout. To that point the Women of Troy were hitting a mere .095 with four errors. Defensively, the Sun Devils were able to hold USC to just six kills at that point.
Out of the timeout, the Sun Devils hit the accelerator, and in the blink of an eye found themselves at set point up seven. A subsequent USC service error would give the Sun Devils the set three victory 25-18.
Follette continued to play very well and pace the Sun Devil offense. She would finish with 12 kills in the match with a hitting percentage of .308.
Junior BreElle Bailey would finish with a team and season-high 18 kills in the match to go along with Follette’s 12.
“I think Bre is worthy of an all conference selection,” Watson said. “The work that she’s done of late for us is worthy of some consideration.”
To go along with Bailey’s performance, Harker eclipsed the 20-dig mark for the second time this season against USC as she tallied 23 in this match.
While the Sun Devils could not pull out a victory this weekend, there were still positive takeaways.
“It gives us a lot of confidence because every team is good and every team that is going to make the tournament.” Follette said. “These games give us that boost. We didn’t do too well when we played them at their home. To see how far we’ve come since that weekend says a lot about the character of this team.”
The final weekend of the season for ASU volleyball has two road matches against Oregon and Arizona.