(Photo: Ryan Bafaloukos/WCSN)
The No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils (13-2) looked dominant as they swept the Oregon State Beavers (9-5) by a score of 25-19, 25-8, 25-14 in their first match since losing to No. 7 Stanford last Friday.
“We needed it,” senior libero Stephanie Preach said. “We always want to come back after a loss with a win, obviously. We’ve been training really hard this week in practice, getting better. We had long, tough practices, so it was really important that we came back tonight and came out strong and won.”
Outside hitter McKenzie Willey came up big for the Sun Devils, putting away two straight kills to close out the opening set. She finished the match with 11 kills.
“The thing we were most concerned about was that we needed to defend our home gym,” Willey said. “This is our place, and no one is going to take it from us.”
After a close starting set, Arizona State came out quickly, dominating in the second set. Two straight-stuff blocks by middle blocker Mercedes Binns and setter Bianca Arellano gave ASU an early 12-5 lead. The Sun Devils never looked back as they went on a massive 17-3 run to close out the second set.
The Sun Devils’ presence at the net was key all match long, as they held the Beavers to a dismal hitting percentage of -.320.
“Blocking is a skill that you can do it well and not get a return, and I thought tonight we did it well and got a return,” ASU head coach Jason Watson said.
The third set was more of the same. Oregon State struggled to consistently pass well in serve receive, and the Sun Devils took advantage of the high number of free balls sent to their side of the court.
Setter Bianca Arellano stood out defensively for the Sun Devils with ten digs to go along with 31 assists, and five block assists. Senior libero Stephanie Preach was critical as well, consistently covering hitters and passing well in serve receive.
“We always want to be scrappy as we can and pick up as many balls as we can,” Preach said. “I just think coming back after Friday night, it was important for us.”
“I thought we were pretty dialed in tonight,” Watson said. “I thought we got on some tendencies and we stayed on those tendencies. I thought that discipline was really important.”
ASU’s star outside hitter Macey Gardner also chipped in nine digs of her own as well as a team-high 12 kills.
“We keep asking Macey Gardner to be better in some things, and defensively and passing are those two things,” Watson said.
The win improved the Sun Devils to 2-1 in conference play. Four of their next five Pac-12 matches will come against top 25 opponents.
“It’s Pac-12. It’s a bloodbath,” said Willey of the upcoming schedule. “It’s a tough, tough conference.”
The Arizona State Sun Devils look to improve to 14-2 as they face the No. 21 Oregon Ducks at home on Sunday, October 6th at 3 p.m.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at email@example.com