Behind junior Macey Gardner’s 21 kills, the No. 18 Arizona State volleyball team handed California its sixth-consecutive loss, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-21, Friday at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Golden Bears (8-8, 0-6 Pacific-12) took an early 4-0 lead in the first game, before the Sun Devils (13-4, 3-2) tied it at 5-5. It remained fairly even, Cal went up 23-19, and out of a timeout, ASU scored three-straight points until Christina Higgins ended it. Following three sweeps, the game was Cal’s first win since Sept. 26 against Washington.
“We got into this big hole,” ASU coach Jason Watson said. “We weren’t ourselves, so we needed to remember what we were supposed to do, it took us a long time, a little while to get settled.”
The Sun Devils responded in the second and third, which was ended with three straight points. In the fourth, Gardner’s kill put ASU up 21-18, Higgins cut it to two, McKenzie Willey floated one over the net, and she also killed the 24th point. Jenelle Jordan saved one for Cal, before Mercedes Binns knocked down the clincher.
“By the second game, we were more narrowed in on their tendencies,” Willey said. “We did a great job of knowing where they were going to hit.”
Willey finished with 16 kills and 17 digs for ASU, BreElle Bailey recorded 13 kills, Halle Harker notched 20 digs, Gardner added 18, and Bianca Arellano set up 55 assists. Higgins led the Bears with 18 kills, Mandy Kerr had 21 digs, and Alyssa Jensen passed 43 assists.
The Sun Devils now will have to face No. 1 Stanford, when the 14-0 Cardinal comes to Tempe at 11 a.m. Sunday.
“I’ve been in this conference now for seven years,” Watson said. “You’re going to have to play well. We’ve never beaten Stanford, that’s the only school we’ve never beaten, and I know that means something to our athletes, it means a lot. The focus is on doing the job, not beating Stanford.”
ASU has not beaten Stanford since 2000 and is 4-63 all-time versus the six-time national champions.
“It would be the same feeling as winning tonight,” Gardner said. “They’re a great team, we’ll just take it in stride, but a win against Stanford would be pretty awesome.”
Things won’t get any easier, as the next match features ASU hosting No. 3 Washington (15-0) at 6 p.m. Oct. 17, and California will be at Utah Oct. 17, in its next match.
Also, the FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championships has been narrowed down to the semifinals, taking place Saturday in Milan, Italy. The United States will play Brazil, and China will face Italy.