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Stocks: who’s rising, falling after the M&G game

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Rising Stock:

BreElle Bailey

The freshman hitter from Highland, Utah was the most impressive stand-out from the intra-squad scrimmage this past weekend. She impressed those in the crowd with her power, and head coach Jason Watson said he would like to continue to feed Bailey the ball when possible. At 6’4″, Bailey had much success hitting and blocking on the right side, consistently forcing the opposing outside hitters to change their swings. In the final game of the day, Bailey was matched up against 2012 All-Pac-12 selection Macey Gardner. Bailey and Gardner traded kills repeatedly throughout the game, each girl seemingly trying to one-up the other. The Sun Devils may have found an x-factor type of player in Bailey if she continues to develop and reach the high potential that was evident in Saturday’s scrimmage.

McKenzie Willey

“Kizzy” had a moderately productive Saturday afternoon. Going into the scrimmage, the strategy for the freshman (also from Highland, Utah) was to focus on her offense throughout all three games, according to Watson. Willey showed off a quick, intelligent swing, hitting through holes in the block when she saw them, and abusing a well-set block by hitting off the defenders’ hands and out of bounds. She showed spurts of high-energy play in the front row. Willey did struggle for a while passing the ball in serve receive. However, the freshman could be a high-quality spark plug off the bench in a side-out situation if the Sun Devils find themselves stuck in a serve receive rotation. Willey has the potential to be that player with her infectious energy and confidence throughout a rally. Her energy rubbed off on her teammates, and she was not afraid to demand the ball throughout a rally.

Mercedes Binns

The sophomore middle blocker was extremely effective throughout all three games. She and setter Alison Palmer put on a setter-middle hitter clinic, running a wide array of routes. Binns had commented on the time spent with Palmer working on their chemistry, and that statement proved to be the most evident in situations where the pass was a few feet off the net. Ideally, setters tend to set the middle strictly on a perfect pass because that is a situation when the margin for error is greater than if the pass is less than perfect. However, on Saturday, Palmer was able to shoot Binns a “3” set when she was pulled off the net. The difference between the three (also called a “gap”) and the standard “one” (or “quick”) set is a three requires the middle to be further away from the setter, closer to the left-side antenna. Setting a 3 in transition, or mid-rally, when the pass is less than perfect requires a solid relationship between the middle and the setter. It is a high-risk, high-reward set because the opposing blockers have a hard time predicting a setter and middle being so deeply in sync. With the type of success Binns had with Palmer, she made a quality case for playing time (possibly starting time, too) at the middle blocker position.

Falling Stock:

Nora Tuioti-Mariner

The junior outside hitter had a difficult time scoring points efficiently on Saturday. Tuioti-Mariner struggled when a solid block was in front of her, hitting out of the court on numerous occasions. This difficulty could be a result of Bailey having a successful day blocking on the right side. As the game progressed, however, Tuioti-Mariner found more of a rhythm, hitting the “high-seam”, which is the weaker section of a block residing between the two players hands. Given her previous body of work, it should be interesting to see how playing time is distributed with a load talent at the outside hitting position for the Sun Devils.

Kwyn Johnson

The left-handed freshman’s stock did not fall as much as it remained where it is expected. Johnson did not have the opportunity to begin practicing a semester early like fellow freshmen BreElle Bailey and Kizzy Willey, and she admitted to feeling a little behind the curve. However, the 6’4” Johnson showed the potential presence she could provide on the right-side. A lefty is naturally more comfortable hitting on the right-side, and it also provides a multitude of options for setters to run different types of plays with a southpaw on the court. Having played outside hitter for her high school, Johnson shows that she is a versatile, effective hitter. She also provided a big block, effectively bothering Macey Gardner when lined up against the heralded outside hitter. It seems that all Johnson needs is more experience to find comfort with her teammates. Later in the season, if her development continues, Johnson could be a difference maker by providing a wrinkle in the offense hitting on both the left and right sides of the court.

You can contact Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at

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