(Photo: Ryan Bafaloukos/WCSN)
The No. 16 Arizona State Sun Devils won their Pac-12 opener with a sweep over the Arizona Wildcats 25-22, 25-21, 26-24.
Early on, it was evident that ASU setter Bianca Arellano intended to establish the middle blockers early. Middle blocker Whitney Follette had four of her seven kills in the first set in what was arguably her best match of the year.
“I think really getting intense about the game and having a sense of urgency really made me want to get up higher and go up stronger,” Follette said.
In the second set, Arizona took advantage of sloppy play from the Sun Devils to lead 8-10 early in the second set, forcing ASU head coach Jason Watson to use his first timeout at Wells Fargo Arena this year.
Macey Gardner came alive, putting down two kills late in the set. She ended the match with 13 kills and six digs.
The Wildcats came out quickly in the third set, leading 13-8 after a flat start from the Sun Devils.
Arizona outside hitter Jane Croson gave ASU trouble all match with her serve, putting up two aces and pressuring the Sun Devil’s serve receive all match.
“I thought [Croson’s] jump serve gave us a lot more trouble than we were expecting,” Jason Watson said. “That’s about as good as I’ve seen Arizona play.”
ASU roared back to take a 19-18 lead following a Kingdon attacking error, but the Wildcats battled back to lead 21-19.
“I thought the momentum had shifted entirely to Arizona,” said Watson. “I did think that in each of the three games we played tonight, we were the cleaner team from twenty on.”
The Wildcats and Sun Devils traded points, with ASU trailing 24-23 at one point. The Sun Devils recovered and pulled the set out after a big block from Bailey and Follette for match point.
“It was sick,” Follette said. “I hadn’t had a block all game so I was really happy to get one, especially on [Kingdon].”
“Arizona State is one of the best teams in the conference,” head coach Dave Rubio said before the game. “They are a solid and well-balanced team.”
The Sun Devils were greeted by a rowdy crowd of 2,293 at Wells Fargo Arena, including ASU defensive lineman Will Sutton.
“Sometimes we can’t hear ourselves think, but I love it,” Follette said about the ASU fans in attendance.
“You get this many people in the stands and you want to make sure they leave happy,” Watson said. “We appreciate them getting behind us because we’re fun to watch. I hope we’re fun to watch, I’m having fun watching us.”
Arizona State travels to Palo Alto, CA for a match against No. 7 Stanford on Friday, September 27th at 6 p.m.
You can reach Zac Pacleb on Twitter @ZacPacleb or via email at email@example.com