The No. 13 Arizona State volleyball team (17-4, 6-4 Pacific-12) is getting back in its winning habits and proving it can win without injured senior Macey Gardner, after a four set win over Colorado (13-9, 5-5) Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena. The Sun Devils, who won their first 15 games of the season before losing four consecutively, won for the second time in two days after sweeping Utah Friday.
“We’re starting to figure out life without Macey, and I think it took a long time,” ASU coach Jason Watson said. “To be able to defend home court, that’s a big deal in this conference. I’m pleased with the freshmen, and BreElle Bailey has risen to the challenge of what we’ve asked from her.”
Coach Watson said he didn’t speak directly to Bailey, the 6-foot-4 junior outside hitter, who had a match-high 16 kills on .483 percentage, about stepping up, but it was implied.
“I just took it as an opportunity and a challenge,” Bailey said. “I love a challenge, I knew it was time for me to step up and have a bigger impact on the team. Everyone has a new role and everyone needs to adjust rapidly.”
After trailing early in the opening set, the Sun Devils took a 14-13 lead on a Bailey kill and never looked back, going up by six and winning 25-21. Colorado saved two set points. The Buffaloes, who had won three straight, including 3-1 at No. 14 Arizona Friday, controlled the second from the very beginning with a 9-0 lead and cruising to a 25-8 advantage.
ASU regained its footing in the third. Cassidy Pickrell’s ace made it 17-9, and the team recorded seven of the final eight points for the 25-12 win. Colorado posted a three-point lead for most of the early part of the fourth. Bailey tied it at 12-12 and gave the Sun Devils a 13-12 lead. A Lexi MacLean ace sent ASU to a 15-13 lead. A hard block from Whitney Follette made it 18-17 ASU, Alexis Austin tied it for Colorado, and Naghede Abu sent the Buffaloes ahead. Follette again knotted it at 19-19, and blasts from Bailey tied it at 21-21 and put ASU ahead 23-22. Colorado’s Anna Pfefferle equalized at 23-23, Jasmine Koonts killed at 24-23, and Follette blocked the match point, 25-23, which happened to be the 400th of her career. There were a total of 16 ties and six lead changes in the fourth.
“I’m feeling a lot better, every day, we get more confident and comfortable in each spot,” Follette said. “I’m very impressed with the freshmen (Koonts and MacLean). We need it to get our momentum going.”
Austin led Colorado with 15 kills, while Gabby Simpson had nine and Pfefferle seven. Nicole Edelman posted 37 assists and Aidan Lea 16 digs. Follette added nine kills for ASU, Bianca Arellano had 20 assists and Halle Harker nine digs.
“The big thing is we’ve learned there is life, people’s roles changed, and they needed to accept that,” Watson said of progressing without Gardner. “Us moving on wasn’t insulting the role Macey has played to date. This rotation we have, is a little odd, and I think we’ve gotten more comfortable with it, and the results have only furthered our confidence.”
ASU is at Stanford at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and California Thursday, before returning home at 8 p.m. Nov. 6 versus Washington. Next for the Buffaloes is a home match with Oregon State Oct. 30, and the Sun Devils will be in Boulder on Nov. 12.