(Photo: Trey Lanthier/WCSN)
The No. 20 Arizona State volleyball team had its inspiring comeback attempt fall short as they narrowly lost to the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal in five sets, (11-25, 16-25, 25-22, 25-22, 11-15). After falling behind by two sets and looking lost, without a rhythm, the Sun Devils rallied together and put together a comeback led by junior outside hitter Macey Gardner and her 21 kills against the top team in the country in their territory.
A powerful kill by sophomore right side hitter BreElle Bailey put the surprisingly competitive Sun Devils up 6-4 in position to snag the win from the Cardinal grasp, but it ended up being futile as the efficient Stanford offense found a way to win the set and the match. Bailey followed her underwhelming matches last weekend by playing one of the better games of her season with 10 kills and a .250 hitting percentage against the undefeated Cardinal.
The turning point came in the third set with Stanford in full and complete control led by junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku, who finished with an impressive 20 kills and a .457 hitting percentage and six blocks. ASU never stopped fighting, however, as Gardner hit kill after kill to bring them back into the match, inspiring her team with her ferocity and will to win.
The fourth set ended up the same as the third set with the Sun Devils improving their offensive rhythm while also improving their team hitting percentage, they ended the match with .137, which is miles ahead from their near .004 hitting percentage in the first two sets. The Cardinal seemed surprised by the sudden ASU surge, and the top team in the nation did not have a response for what the Sun Devils were throwing at them as a kill by junior setter Bianca Arellano turned into a 25-22 fourth set victory.
The two sets to begin the match could not have started out worse for ASU. Stanford seemed to get everything they wanted, making the Sun Devils defense pay for every single hit that went over the net, leading 11-25 and 16-25 losses in the first and second set respectively. It did not look as if ASU would rebound and perform like the way they fought in the remaining sets to end the game.
This near win over a top team proves that the Sun Devils can play with anyone in the nation, and should instill confidence in the team moving forward to the remaining games in the Pac-12. ASU gets what hypothetically is an easier contest as they travel to Berkley, Calif., to take on the California Bears on Friday.