(Photo: Liesl Babicka/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils must overcome the No. 12 Stanford Cardinal on Friday evening to nab their 10th win.
The Sun Devils (9-19, 2-14 Pac-12) wrapped up their final road trip of the season last weekend in Washington where they came away with only one set in two matches.
Despite the final scores, the Sun Devils had some positive takeaways. The most immediate came from senior outside hitter Maya McClendon against the Cougars. She drilled a career high 24 kills and hit .477 in the match. However, two days later she hit in the negatives against the Huskies.
Sophomore setter Kylie Pickrell also returned to the floor in consistent and dazzling fashion. She recorded nearly 70 assists and two aces over the weekend.
However, Stanford’s blocking dominance overshadows any flashes of hope for the Sun Devil offense.
Stanford currently leads the country with 3.49 blocks per set – a big factor that has led to its 17-7 record.
Freshman middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris, senior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku and junior middle blocker Merete Lutz are a multidimensional powerful trio. The three players have totaled over 100 total blocks and 200 kills this season.
For Arizona State to come away with a victory, it will need to be disciplined and committed to the game plan.
“We’ll focus on what can we be running on our side of the net that is going to give them trouble blocking on their side,” K. Pickrell said. “If we can pass well on our side and we are able to run different combinations of plays it’ll at least make them think about what we’re doing.”
One focus for the Sun Devils is staying in system – something they struggled with on their recent road trip.
“We have to go with speed to the pins. They are really big and they are really big out of system,” Mussie said. “If we can stay in system, we give ourselves a much better chance to score.”
Playing through its middle blockers will make the game competitive for ASU. Freshman middle blocker Mmachi Nwoke hit .538 and junior middle blocker Oluoma Okaro hit .385 while each receiving 13 attempts apiece in Washington.
Stanford and Arizona State square off on Friday at 5:30 p.m. MT at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.