(Photo by: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
No. 7 Arizona State took on Oregon State for its second conference match this year and beat them in straight sets.
Freshman setter Kylie Pickrell, who didn’t play the last two sets against UoA, sat out the entire game forcing the Sun Devils to run a 5-1 for the second time this season with senior setter Bianca Arellano.
This of course would switch up the two opposites and how much playing time they would get. Junior opposite Kizzy Ricedorff got the start, but played back row for three sets and front row for one, then was subbed out for junior opposite BreElle Bailey to hit and to keep her out of passing serve receive.
It was a slow start for the Sun Devils in general as junior outside hitter Cassidy Pickrell at one point had zero kills on four attempts with three errors and senior middle blocker Whitney Follette 0 kills, two errors on three attempts. Pickrell finished with only one kill on the set and the Sun Devils combined for a -.100 hitting percentage.
“We started off our serve-pass practice this morning a little bit slow,” Arellano said. “We really had to focus in on creating our own energy. We came out for our warm up, and there were no fans in the stands, which is a complete 180 degree turn from Thursday night.”
Senior outside hitter Macey Gardner, who just passed Sarah Reaves for No. 2 on ASU’s all-time kills list, led the team in hitting percentage with .429, tallying six kills on 14 attempts with zero errors.
Oregon State was able to hit around ASU’s block, limiting Arizona State to only two blocks and giving the defense more to do as the team had 14 digs.
A big block and a solid effort from the back row forced the Beavers to commit 11 hitting errors and a attack hitting percentage of -.054 to finish the first game.
ASU had the lead the entire first set, even though the Beavers were close behind, and eventually won 25-18.
Follette was started things off right in the second set early with two kills and a block. But, it was apparent that switching back to a 5-1 affected ASU’s middle blockers as Mercedes Binns was only set three times in the set and didn’t record a kill.
“I felt like offensively we weren’t trying to be simple,” head coach Jason Watson said. “We are really good at keeping our middles in front of the setter, and I felt like we tried to do some things that we are not good at.”
The Sun Devils were up 15-12 during the set but one of the reasons it was so close is that Gardner had only one kill being set only five times. She put away three more after that point, hitting her favorite spot to the back right corner every time.
Sophomore libero Halle Harker had 11 digs through 21 points of the set, and then only one after that. The reason being because the balls stopped coming to her as the ASU’s block looked like the second best in the nation putting up seven in the set.
“She [Harker] has made an amazing transition from the freshman libero to the sophomore libero,” Arellano added. “She’s more of a voice on the court. She’s talking every single play, pointing out every single defensive technique that we need to pick up.”
ASU put up seven blocks in the set alone keeping Oregon state to a hitting percentage just above the negatives and topped it off taking the second set 25-19.
The game was back and forth tied up at 12 a piece and Watson made the decision to put in freshman defensive specialist Blair Robalin to play back row for Ricedorff who had one dig, and Robalin didn’t record any digs in the short time she got in.
Bailey was quiet in the first two sets with only two kills and two blocks, and she was put on the bench for the last set.
“We put Bre in a really awkward substitution pattern,” Watson said. “Her blocking got better, but offensively, I think that performance is on me.”
Playing all around for the first time this season, Bianca shined as she notched yet another double-double with 35 assists and 14 digs. On the other hand, in the front row, Arellano had three blocks and two kills.
Gardner finished things off for the Sun Devils once again, leading both sides of the net with 16 kills and adding 11 digs. She is now only 35 kills away from becoming ASU’s all-time kill leader, which she is projected to break Sunday, October 4 against California.
Sun Devils improved to 13-0 overall, 2-0 in conference play and will play No. 8 Stanford, who was projected to be first in the Pac-12 in the preseason, on Friday.
You can reach Troy on Twitter (@mrtroylynch) or on email at firstname.lastname@example.org