(Photo: ASU Athletics)
The No. 18 Arizona State volleyball team (12-4, 2-2 Pac-12) returns from a grueling road trip to Wells Fargo Arena this weekend, with the first game on Friday, hosting the struggling California Bears (8-7, 0-4 Pac-12). First serve with the Bears is set for 7 p.m.
The Sun Devils are coming off a tough loss to an unranked Utah Utes team that played well in the later sets to pick up their first win in Pac-12 play. ASU struggled to get the ball over the net for the entirety of this game, with the Utes picking up an impressive 14 blocks. The Sun Devils also came off pretty out-of-sync, especially on defense, as they let Utah freshman outside hitter Adora Anae tally 17 kills and a .424 hitting percentage. ASU will need to tighten up their defense if they want to shut down California on Friday.
The Bears come into Wells Fargo Arena winless in Pac-12 play after getting swept at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats. Cal struggled early and often, falling victim to a number of Wildcat runs to fall behind by wide margins in the set in which they could not comeback and make it competitive. The Bears will need to get out to early leads in the set if they want to complete the upset.
What To Watch For
Watch for the Sun Devils looking ahead to their blockbuster matchup later this weekend against the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal, which could hurt them against California. The Bears have their share of talent led by senior outside hitter Christina Higgins, who had 16 kills last weekend against the Oregon State Beavers. If ASU is caught off-guard by her relentless attack, it could spell trouble and an early deficit for the Sun Devils.
Another player to watch in this match is how the whole team responds, especially the duo of sophomore outside hitter BreElle Bailey and junior middle blocker Mercedes Binns, to being out-blocked by the Utes last weekend 14-8. These pivotal players will need to rebound and play exceptional to stop the Bears’ offense and allow ASU to dominate and control the outcome of this game.
The struggles from the upset last weekend will carry over, in addition to the Sun Devils looking ahead to their big match-up against Stanford on Sunday will result in ASU being down one set early. In the remaining sets, however, the offensive firepower of junior outside hitter Macey Gardner and the blocking presence of Bailey and Binns will spell success and a four set victory over the Bears.
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