(Photo: Jacob Franklin/WCSN)
The long awaited game for the Arizona State Sun Devils has finally arrived. After a 14-game road trip, the team is finally back in Tempe.
Head coach Stevie Mussie will host her first match ever in Wells Fargo Arena on Friday against No. 21 Oregon on Friday.
“[The first home match] means the world to me. I think that means the world to our girls,” Mussie said. “We have ten new kids who have never played in Wells Fargo before. It’s a big deal for all of us.”
Such a long trip can take a toll on any team. Being back in Wells Fargo provides them the opportunity to rest up and get healthy.
Last season, the Sun Devils were dominant at home posting a stellar 12-3 record. Although this is a new team, it’s important to Mussie to maintain that standard of excellence at home.
“It’s important for every team in every conference to be good at home. It’s your gym. You have to know the facility. You have to know how the ball flies,” Mussie said. “We want to come in the gym and make it very, very difficult for everyone else to walk in Wells Fargo.”
Arizona State has fared evenly across the board thus far with a 7-7 record, which truly speaks to the unpredictability of this team from the starting lineups to the final scores.
The Sun Devils opened the season with a sweep of Fairfield University and then recently upset previously No. 17 Santa Clara in five sets.
On the flip side, in a tournament the weekend before the win over Santa Clara, Pepperdine swept the Sun Devils handily.
Senior outside hitters Cassidy Pickrell and Maya McClendon will likely lead the way for Arizona State against Oregon. Both are coming off double-doubles with kills and digs against No. 25 Utah.
Pickrell noted in practice that the team is really working on their chemistry and dynamic leading into this game. Consistency is a must to compete against the Ducks.
Oregon on the other hand has lived up to the expectations. They were predicted to finish fourth in the Pac-12 and comfortably sit in third right now. Both blemishes on their record have come against the No. 4 and No. 5 teams in the country.
The Ducks have now won nine in a row and have swept their last five matches. During their win streak, they have a hitting percentage of .356, while holding their opponents to a .129 percentage.
Oregon will have a clear size advantage on Friday. Two thirds of the team is over six foot and will stand tall against the undersized Sun Devils.
ASU’s junior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro sees the height difference as an advantage for her team since teams tend to underestimate the shorter competition.
“We’re going to prepare for them in terms of videos, seeing their tendencies,” Okaro said. “So when we come into the game we’re going to have them scouted out a lot more than they think.”
Oregon has a young team on paper with more than half of the roster made up of underclassmen, but they have been guided by some of the finest veterans in the NCAA.
Senior libero Amanda Benson recently earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honors. The Arizona native is also averaging 5.22 digs per set, good for 20th in the country.
Oregon brings a dynamic offense to the court in which all players contribute. Although this may seem similar to Utah, which Arizona State fared pretty well against, the Ducks don’t have a standout offensive star that Utah had. This presents a challenge for the Sun Devils in their preparation.
Okaro, who transferred from the West Coast conference, noted this unique challenge in the Pac-12 especially when facing a dynamic team like Oregon.
“[West Coast] is a very competitive conference, but it’s nothing like the Pac-12 because everyone here is a big hitter,” Okaro said. “It’s hard to know who to go block.”
The game begins at 6 p.m. in Wells Fargo Arena.
If you have any questions or comments, you can contact Delilah Cassidy via Twitter @delilahcassidy or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.