(Photo: Jacob Franklin/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils opened up their conference play on the road against the Arizona Wildcats Wednesday night.
The Sun Devils out-performed expectations on the blocking side of the game, but that would not be enough to win, as they lost their first conference match of the year 22-25, 25-19, 23-25, 18-25.
The opening set started out with the teams tied at five before a four point run from the Wildcats forced a timeout from Sun Devil head coach Stevie Mussie.
After the Sun Devils took a 20-14 lead and the Sun Devils called a timeout, ASU went on a 5-1 run and forced a timeout by Arizona head coach Dave Rubio.
The teams ultimately traded points from there and Arizona took the first set from Arizona State 25-22.
The Sun Devils were able to bounce back in a set that did not see much separation at the start. The rivals started the set tied at seven before the Wildcats went on a three point run.
The Sun Devils fought their way back and tied the game at 12.
After taking a 17-15 lead, Arizona State went on a 6-0 run, courtesy of two blocks from both senior outside hitter Cassidy Pickrell and junior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro. The Sun Devils then proceeded to win the set 25-19.
Just like the first two, the third set started close, without much separation, as Arizona led 5-4. The Wildcats then went on a four point run and forced a timeout from the Sun Devils.
Later in the set, down 12-7, Arizona State went on a three point run to make it 12-10. Soon after, two straight kills from C. Pickrell helped the Sun Devils tie the game at 13.
The Wildcats eventually held a 20-17 lead. The Sun Devils would make it close near the end, but it was the Wildcats who would come out on top 25-23.
The fourth set, which would prove to be the final set, differed from the first three as one team finally gained distance from the other. Arizona started the set up 5-1, and after a timeout from Arizona State, the Wildcats extended their lead to 11-4.
Arizona seemed to be rolling throughout the set, never looking back and holding a 22-11 lead against the Sun Devils. Arizona State, however, would not go down easy.
Facing their biggest deficit of the night, the Sun Devils would crawl their way back with a 7-2 run to cut the lead to six.
“I thought Cassidy Pickrell was unbelievable,” Mussie said. “I think her game and her grittiness and her ability to compete and stay focused over time was fabulous.” Pickrell would finish the match with 20 kills, the most on the Sun Devil team.
However, the early hole the Sun Devils dug themselves in would prove to be too big, and Arizona would come away with the fourth set and take the match.
Arizona State finished with 14.5 blocks, including 10 blocks from Okaro. Mussie not only gives credit to Okaro, but to the entire team.
“It was great calls from the bench,” Mussie said. “Okaro did an unbelievable job taking away shots and being physical.”
With the loss tonight, Arizona State falls to 7-6 on the year, and 0-1 in Pac-12 play. The Sun Devils continue their season with a game on Saturday on the road against the Utah Utes.
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