(Photo: Trey Lanthier/WCSN)
As we enter the thick of the Pac-12 conference season, with Arizona State volleyball yet to establish itself as either a top-tier team or a bottom-feeder at exactly .500 in conference (3-3), it’s reached time to ask some of the tougher questions. After over a month of sitting out due to a burst appendix, junior middle blocker Whitney Follette has been cleared by medical trainers to play. But should she play?
We have our experts here to break it down for you, but the problem is, they disagree on this. Below is Zac Pacleb’s take on the matter. You can read Troy Lynch’s take on the matter here. Both are experts, but only one can be right. Don’t miss the video debate either, which can be found at the bottom of the article.
-WCSN volleyball co-editor Trey Lanthier
Simply put, if not now, when?
Sure, playing the No. 3 team in the country would be one heck of a way to make a return, but if Follette is at full strength, then I see no reason not to put her in against the Huskies. After being out for the last month, Follette has been itching to get back on the court; it was only a matter of when she regained her conditioning.
“I think I’m probably at 80, 85 (percent). I can’t jump as high as I could before, but everything else has come together,” Follette said before practice on Tuesday.
All things considered, a healthy Follette spells great things for ASU’s offensive play. Although Watson was quick to praise the play of junior Andi Lowrance, junior setter bianca Arellano is much more apt to set Follette, who still has the highest hitting percentage of any ASU attacker before she went out with her injury (.336).
More usage of the middles put ASU at a well-balanced place offensively, and that in turn created more ideal situations to Macey Gardner to be the dominant force that she is.
Because we are living in a hypothetical world, let’s say that Follette starts on Friday, and it would be clear that she is struggling catching up to the fast Washington offense or maybe her conditioning isn’t at a point that she thinks it is, Watson can easily swap Follette for Lowrance, who has been a solid job in the M2 spot.
“We’re sitting here at 3-3 in conference, and we’ve lost two five-gamers to Colorado State and Arizona, and I think we don’t get in those situations without Andi,” Watson said. “And she’s done a remarkable job and continues to do a really good job for us, and I don’t think we get where we are if she doesn’t tear it up like she’s been doing.”
One might argue that Watson should stick with Lowrance because of how well she has played, but that is a strong reason to play Follette. Lowrance can come in right away if it appears Follette is struggling.
The Pac-12 is loaded with the best teams playing the best players, and if one of your best players is available, you have to pull the trigger and play them. Every team in the conference is strong, and the performances of unranked Colorado and Utah should shed even more light on how good this conference is, no matter what their record and rankings say. Washington State is no exception to that description, even if they are winless in conference play.
That being said, if Follette has a solid week of practice, seems fit on Thursday and everybody feels as comfortable as they have claimed, I would fully expect Watson to have Follette in the starting lineup on Friday night.