(Photo: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
Following the same trend as the football team, the No. 22 Arizona State volleyball team fell to the No. 14 Arizona Wildcats in three sets in the final match of the regular season. Struggles on the offensive front, particularly the play off the bat from junior middle blocker Whitney Follette dug the Sun Devils a hole they could not overcome over the course of the match.
One of the keys to this match was the emergence of another offensive star to complement the consistent junior outside hitter Macey Gardner and Follette was expected to fill in those shoes and perform up to her standards. This just did not seem the case however, as she finished the first set with zero kills and a -.400 hitting percentage and the game with a measly two kills and a -.231 hitting percentage. The lack of a sidekick was the story in this defeat.
After dropping the first couple sets, the Sun Devils showed some life to begin the third set, opening up a 11-4 lead and looking like they could become competitive and steal a set from the Wildcats. This hope was tarnished as Arizona’s balanced attack from senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon and sophomore outside hitter Ashley Harris found their stride and put away the match 25-21, sweeping the season series between these two rivals.
In the first set, the offense of ASU struggled to find a rhythm except for Gardner, who owned the Wildcats last time these two teams met with 30 kills. She shined with eight kills and a .375 hitting percentage in the first set alone and finished with 15 kills and a .205 hitting percentage. She was the only bright spot in an otherwise sloppy beginning of the game as the attack errors added up to eight. Even with the sloppiness, the Sun Devils were in it to the very end but the Wildcats’ Kingdon and her six kills were too much to overcome in the 27-29 set one defeat.
The second set was much of the same story. The Sun Devils hit for a combined .141 and had six more attacking errors. It was prevalent that ASU was beating itself with all of these mental and physical mistakes. Even Gardner seemed to cool down just a little after a fiery first set with only four kills. By limiting their errors, the Wildcats were able to open up a firm lead and held that up for the remainder of the set in the set win.
With the loss, the Sun Devils end the season with a 19-13 record and a 9-11 record in the Pac-12. ASU will learn its postseason fate on Sunday when the NCAA announces the 2014 NCAA Tournament selections at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.