(Photo: James Powel/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils host the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday afternoon, looking to send their seniors out with a win on Senior Night.
The Sun Devils enter into the matchup with two consecutive wins, and a third would give them their longest win streak of the season.
“Having two back-to-back home wins definitely boosts our confidence,” junior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro said. “Confidence is a big part of volleyball; having those two wins is definitely going to prepare us.”
Standing in their way are the 18-13 Wildcats, who beat the Sun Devils earlier in the season in four sets.
Arizona has rattled off numerous quality wins this season. The Wildcats have beaten Utah and Stanford, as well as USC and UCLA twice this season.
One reason why the Wildcats have had success this season is their ability to play defense. They rank second in the Pac-12 and 78th nationally in digs per set with 15.85.
Their senior libero Laura Larson deserves a lot of credit for such a stellar defense. Larson leads the team with 457 digs and ranks sixth in the conference with 3.91 digs per set.
Despite its success digging the ball, the area where Arizona struggles the most is blocking. The Wildcats are 11th in the Pac-12 with just 2.00 blocks per set.
ASU has struggled offensively this season, coming in last in the conference in hitting percentage, 10th in assists per set and 11th in kills per set.
However, the Sun Devils have shown their ability to hit effectively against bad blocking teams.
Last week, against a California Golden Bears team who ranks last in the Pac-12 in blocks per set with 1.85, the Sun Devils hit .337, their second highest hitting percentage in a game this season. Okaro hit an astounding .824 against the Golden Bears, with 14 kills and zero errors.
Emotions will be running high in this in-state rivalry. The two teams have a long history with each other, and the rivalry between these two teams runs deep in every sport.
And for sophomore setter Kylie Pickrell, who is the younger sister of senior outside hitter Cassidy Pickrell, it is a big deal to get a win in her sister’s last game in a Sun Devil uniform.
“I have one more match left with my sister,” K. Pickrell said. “I hate U of A, I love my sister, and it’s her last game in a Sun Devils jersey, so I’m 100% doing it for that girl.”
The Sun Devils will look to end the season on a high note against the Wildcats on Saturday at 3 p.m. MT.