(Photo: Zac Pacleb/WCSN)
The No. 22 Arizona State volleyball team concludes its season with a rivalry tilt against the dangerous No. 13 Arizona Wildcats at Wells Fargo Arena on Black Friday. This match is very important as, not only is it a heated rivalry, but it could also greatly impact placements in the NCAA tournament when seeding selections are made early next week.
The Sun Devils continue to win matches in dramatic five set fashion, most recently against No. 17 UCLA earlier in the week with the help of junior outside hitter Macey Gardner’s 20 kills and the mistakes on the Bruins’ side, whose attacking errors tallied up to 32 by the end of the night. The Wildcats limp into Tempe after struggling against unranked USC in a four-set loss on Wednesday. Their offense was just not clicking from the get-go, hitting just .156 in the entire match.
This is a rematch of an early season game in which the Sun Devils narrowly lost in five sets despite Gardner tying the school record in single match kills with 30, while also accounting for a .350 hitting percentage. The career highs did not stop there, as junior setter Bianca Arellano had 61 assists in the defeat. ASU just could not contain sophomore outside hitter Ashley Harris of the Wildcats, whose 19 kills put the Sun Devils in a hole they could not climb their way out of.
Keys To The Game
-Containing the Wildcats Trio of Offense
ASU will have its hands full when the Wildcats come into town, most notably with the firepower that the front line possesses. Senior outside hitters Madi Kingdon and Taylor Arizobal and sophomore Harris have shown that they can fire on all cylinders and can become virtually unstoppable. When the Wildcats played Washington State match last week, Kingdon led the team with 22 kills, but Harris and Arizobal were not far behind with 19 and 18 kills respectively. Harris also put up an impressive .356 hitting percentage while Arizobal had .340. The Sun Devils will have to slow these girls down with quality defensive blocks, something that the team excelled at against UCLA, with 14 total blocks (8 of which belonged to junior middle blocker Whitney Follette). Stopping these three weapons will be at the forefront of the ASU gameplan.
-Having a Complement to Gardner
It’s always a done deal that, in almost every single match, Gardner plays like a star. But she can not be the only one carrying this team to a victory if the Sun Devils want to win on Friday. She needs her teammates to alleviate the constant defensive attention and to help shoulder the weight of the Sun Devil offense. Enter junior middle blocker Whitney Follette. She is on a tear as of late, including ten kills and a .444 hitting percentage against UCLA to go along with her superb blocking totals. She will need to play her best for ASU to have a shot at splitting the season series against the Wildcats.
The Sun Devils have their first chance to sweep any Pac-12 week for the first time this year and they will complete that as they will defeat the cross-state-rival Wildcats in five sets.