(Photo: Courtney Pedroza/WCSN)
No. 6 Arizona State has set out with a torrid pace on its record breaking season, including starting 3-0 in Pac-12 play. Next up for the Sun Devils is the California Golden Bears.
Contrary to the Sun Devils, the Bears are not off to a very hot start. They will look to come into Tempe and get their season back in the right direction.
ASU is coming off of a huge Pac-12 win over No. 8 Stanford. The Sun Devils took care of the Cardinal in a heated four sets. This was the first time that the Sun Devils has won against their conference foe since 2000. That was a streak of 28 consecutive matches.
Leading the way for the Sun Devils is senior outside hitter Macey Gardner. This season has been one to remember as Gardner is blasting her way through the competition. Gardner looks to move into number one all-time on the ASU kills list. To accomplish this feat Gardner, only needs 12 more kills, which she could accomplish against the Bears.
Gardner isn’t the only Sun Devil player having a good season this year. As a whole, ASU has arguably its best defensive team in years, especially up front. The Bears will have to deal with hitting around senior middle blockers Mercedes Binns and Whitney Follette. As a duo, the two players have led the Sun Devils to fifth in the nation in blocks per set.
The Cal Bears will throw sophomore outside hitter Christine Alftin at the Sun Devil block in hope that she can figure something out. Alftin currently sits at 131 kills on the season and is averaging 2.52 per set.
ASU has also been solid behind the big front line of Binns and Follette, especially because of sophomore libero Halle Harker. Harker has been having an amazing season, and is leading the back row of ASU with 3.68 digs per set. The Sun Devils as a whole are averaging 15.0 digs per set. Even if teams do find a way around the blockers of ASU, the Sun Devils are there to pick up what comes to them.
You can expect ASU to be running its 6-2 system, as that is what it ran during the Stanford game. Freshman setter Kylie Pickrell’s knee stood the test against Stanford; however, on a couple occasions, she seemed a bit slow to get up off the ground. It may be plausible to see Pickrell getting some rest against a less fearsome foe in the Bears.
Whatever the case you can catch the Sun Devils match against the Cal Bears this Sunday at 1:30pm in Wells Fargo Arena and it will be streamed live on the Pac-12 Networks.