Macey Gardner recorded 20 kills, but the No. 15 Arizona State volleyball team (13-3, 2-2 Pacific-12) lost a four setter to defending national finalist No. 21 Oregon, 21-25, 25-19, 25-10, 25-20, Sunday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena.
Oregon (9-5, 2-2), which opened the season as the eighth-ranked team in the NCAA polls, snapped a two-game losing streak that included a 3-1 loss at the University of Arizona Friday night.
“I don’t know if we ever felt like we were clawing back,” ASU Coach Jason Watson said. “I don’t feel like we ever got any tempo, we were treading in a nice direction, but we couldn’t take care of the serve and we kept setting the ball tight, allowing their blockers to score some fast points, especially to end that match, three blocks in a row.”
Coach Watson also stressed the difference of being 3-1 and 2-2 and separating from the pack in the highly-competitive Pacific-12 Conference.
Down 8-6 in the opening set, Gardner killed the first three of five unanswered points, as ASU took the lead and never looked back. The Ducks saved one set point, before BreElle Bailey recorded the winner.
The Sun Devils were in a similar situation in the second set, down 7-6, but couldn’t close the gap. Oregon ran away with the tail end of the second and the entire third, of which it attacked 89 percent.
It was a very close fourth set with nine ties and four lead changes, yet ASU had 11 errors. The Sun Devils held a three-point lead before it allowed the Ducks to score four straight and command a 16-15 lead. After a pivotal timeout, Gardner tied it with a blast, and soon her group was ahead 18-16. Oregon coach Jim Moore called a timeout, and a Canace Finley block gave the lead back to the Ducks, who owned nine of the final 11 points and blocked the ultimate three.
Liz Brenner, the three-sport star who also plays basketball and softball for the Ducks, led her team with 17 kills, and Finley had 14. Shellsy Ashen passed 40 assists, and Amanda Benson had 22 digs. For ASU, Bailey killed 10, Bianca Arellano had 38 assists, and five players were in double figures for digs.
“Tonight we came out strong,” Gardner said. “We were on our tendencies, and over the course of the match, we broke out of them, the center-hitter relationship was off tonight, and we were throwing it to the outside. They’re a fast team, and we kind of caught up to their game. We’re young, and we didn’t play as well as we wanted to. Every point matter, you can’t take plays off.”
The Sun Devils are at Washington State Friday and at undefeated No. 1 Washington Oct. 13. Oregon will host No. 16 UCLA Friday and No. 2 USC Oct. 13. The Trojans will be the next home opponent for ASU at 8 p.m. Oct. 18, as it goes back-to-back against the top two-ranked teams in the nation.
“It’s just another day in the gym,” Gardner said. “They’re going to be good with their tendencies, and for us, we’re not going to have to go out there and think about that, it’s a matter of playing our best.”