The ASU volleyball team continued it season-long trend of playing well against top competition but not winning many sets as it fell to No. 11 Cal 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 20-25, 27-29) and No. 6 Stanford 3-0 (21-25, 15-25, 20-25) over the weekend.
The matches were the final home contests of the season for ASU and ended the home careers of senior middle blocker Paige Mittelstaedt and senior setter Marina Mercer.
The Sun Devils (13-15, 3-12) took on the Golden Bears on Friday night and continuously pushed them to the brink, winning the second set handily and reached match point four other times in set four.
The match had 25 ties and 13 lead changes, including six lead changes in game four alone.
After poor offensive showings in their last two matches, the Sun Devils significantly upped their performance.
Freshman outside hitter Ashley Kastl and junior outside hitter Sarah Reaves each had 15 kills, while sophomore outside hitter Sofie Schlagintweit and freshman middle blocker Erica Wilson each had eight kills to provide a balanced attack.
Defensively, the Sun Devils were also stout, as junior libero Sarah Johnson recorded 21 digs and Mittelstaedt recorded eight block assists to hold down the front.
“I thought we competed for a sustained period of time, and we were down in a couple of games and we came back,” coach Jason Watson said. “I thought we had chances in game four, and in this conference if you can put yourself in a position to have some chances then you’re doing a nice job.”
Cal senior outside hitter Hana Cutura, a two-time All-American, was held to a .240 hitting percentage, 77 points below her season average of 3.17. Still, she managed 19 kills.
“We did a nice job, but she still finds a way and that’s what I think makes her the best player in the conference,” Watson said. “You know the ball is going to her and she still finds a way to get a kill, especially late in game four; she kind of took over there.”
On Saturday night the Sun Devils again played tough against one of the nation’s elite teams in Stanford but again came up short.
In the first set, ASU continued its offensive rhythm from the night before, hitting .250 and putting pressure on the Stanford defense.
However, the Stanford offense was even better, hitting .310 in the first set to steadily pull away from ASU.
Both the second and third sets saw the Stanford offense fire on all cylinders, and the Cardinal ended up hitting .370 over the course of the match.
In the end, ASU’s offense just could not keep up. The Sun Devils only led once throughout the course of the match and tied the score only twice. Service errors hurt ASU, as it committed eight without recording a service ace.
Schlagintweit led ASU with 12 kills while Reaves and Kastl added nine each.
Mercer, a three-year starter who lost the starting job to sophomore Cat Highmark earlier this year, came in for the final two sets of the match and recorded 26 assists and five digs to end her home ASU career.
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