(Photo: Noah Findling/WCSN)
The Arizona State Sun Devils lost more than just their seventh straight match last Sunday against Colorado. They lost sophomore setter Bianca Arellano, arguably the most critical component of their offense.
On match point against the Buffaloes, Arellano went up to block Colorado outside hitter Taylor Simpson’s attack attempt and landed on Simpson’s foot, rolling her ankle. That injury has now been diagnosed as an ankle sprain, according to the team.
ASU head coach Jason Watson said that Arellano would be held out of action for this weekend’s matches against Oregon and Oregon State, and the status of her injury will be revisited next Monday.
“What I do know is that [Arellano] is one of the toughest kids ever,” Watson said. “So if [team doctors] say five to seven days, she’s probably thinking three to four, but that’s not her call.”
With Arellano inactive, junior defensive specialist/setter Shannan McCready will step in and fulfill the setting duties.
McCready started halfway through her freshman season at Arizona State, recording 689 assists in 2011, good enough for fifth in the Pac-12. In a match against Utah, McCready recorded a career high with 56 assists. However, McCready did not start at setter in 2012 because of former Sun Devil Allison Palmer’s emergence last season.
“It’s not ideal. [The situation] is tough for Shannan, but knowing her, she’s going to do great.” Watson said.
Although McCready is more than capable of running Watson’s offense, her biggest liability will be in the front row. Standing only 5’7”, McCready will not be the same presence at the net as Arellano who, despite being only 5’8” herself, possesses a vertical that has played a big role in her being third on the team in blocks on the year, with 58.
“With [McCready], we’re probably not gonna block balls for points, but we certainly hope that she can get a touch here and a touch there and we can certainly create some opportunities to score points the other way,” Watson said. “Clearly she’s not gonna be as physical as [Arellano] has been for us.”
Watson will likely look to experiment this week in practice with starting in different rotations for the coming matches against Oregon and Oregon State to avoid unfavorable matchups against opposing outside hitters.
Oregon’s junior outside hitter Liz Brenner was able to put down 17 kills in the Sun Devils’ first match against the Ducks, so ASU’s coaching staff will obviously be looking to keep McCready away from having to block Brenner if at all possible.
The ailing Sun Devils have now lost eight of their last nine matches, and Arellano’s injury just adds to a laundry list of issues for Watson and his staff to address. Once ranked as high as No. 15 in the national rankings and what looked to be a sure-fire lock for the NCAA tournament, ASU now looks to manage a record worthy enough to earn a bid for postseason play.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org