(Photo: Ryan Bafaloukos/WCSN)
The 16-10 Arizona State Sun Devils host the 15-9 Colorado Buffaloes at Wells Fargo Arena Thursday night at 7 p.m. It’s the second meeting between the two on the season. In the first, the Buffaloes beat the Sun Devils, three sets to one, in Boulder. It was a close match: Colorado won their three sets by a combined seven points. At that point in the year, no Pac-12 team had won in Boulder.
Things are a little different now. ASU has won three of their last four and Colorado is on a three-game losing streak. The Sun Devils are 6-4 at home and the Buffaloes are 4-6 on the road.
Arizona State Players to Watch:
The first player to look for is Bianca Arellano. The starting setter has missed the last four matches and is probable to return today. In her absence, Shannon McCready has taken over the setting duties and it’s led to a more balanced attack. Freshman outside hitter BreElle Bailley has emerged into a consistent attacker. Bailey has 54 kills since McCready started distributing, but of course Macey Gardner is still the number one weapon. The sophomore outside hitter has 68 kills in those same four matches.
Colorado Players to Watch:
Taylor Simpson sets the tone for the Buffaloes. Her 273 kills are by far the most on the team (Alexis Austin is the only other hitter over 200). Getting them the ball is setter Nicole Edelman. Her 856 assists is about 70 more than Arellano’s total. The Buffaloes’ struggles as of late go hand-in-hand with Edelman’s two hitters not performing up to expectation. Simpson and Austin have combined for just 44 kills in the last two matches, both of which were Colorado losses.
What to Watch For:
If Arellano is in the lineup, look for a force-feeding to Macey Gardner. This Sun Devil team has lived and died at times with the efficiency of Gardner, especially when Arellano is setting. If Arellano sits out, look for the Buffaloes to exploit McCready’s lack of size and blocking ability when she is in the front row. She is a liability in the front row, but spreads the ball around beautifully so look for a balanced Sun Devil attack if McCready is in the game.