Next week House of Sparky will begin our "#SunDevilMoments" tournament, with the 16 best moments from the athletic season. This week we will introduce all 16 moments, then reveal our match-ups next week, where you, the reader, will vote on what was the ASU athletics Moment of the Year.
College basketball was still a month from opening tip, but on October 2, 2015, nerves filled Wells Fargo Arena. The cause for anxiety wasn't rooted in failure. In fact, the then-No. 6 ranked Arizona State volleyball team headed into the third-set break up 2-0 over California.
Rather, the Sun Devil faithful were nervous because ASU was winning too quickly. Most if not all of the 1,943 people in the stands were expecting to witness history. ASU senior outside hitter Macey Gardner entered the night 12 kills shy of becoming the all-time kills leader in program history, but two sets in, the star attacker had only recorded four kills.
Most figured Gardner would eventually break the record, but the Sun Devils were scheduled to play their next four matches on the road, and breaking the record in front of friends and family would make the moment all the more special for the Gilbert-native.
And so, as she did for three-and-a-half seasons in Tempe, Gardner delivered. She recorded kills on five of ASU's first 10 points in the third set, and with the Sun Devils leading 21-18, Gardner put away the record-breaking kill.
Any star collegiate student-athlete playing a sport other than football or men's basketball has a case for "best athlete at (insert school) that you haven't heard about," but on this day, Gardner cemented her legacy as one of the best athletes to ever play in Tempe.
She led the Sun Devil volleyball program to heights not previously reached. Just two days earlier, Gardner posted 22 kills and 11 digs to help her Sun devils take down then-No. 8 Stanford for the first time in 15 years. The win over Cal also gave ASU its first ever 4-0 start in Pac-12 play. The following Monday, the Sun Devils were ranked No. 5 in the country, best in program history. ASU's 15-0 start was the best in over 40 years, and a national title run seemed to be a certainty.
Individually, the kills record was just Gardner's latest individual honor. Earlier in the season, Gardner became the 17th Sun Devil to record 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs. Following a stellar junior season, she was named to the AVCA All-American third team, the first Sun Devil to earn that honor since 2000.
Unfortunately, Gardner's record-breaking day was the final time ASU fans saw her at full strength. Gardner's career came to an end all too early as she tore her ACL in the following match against Washington. The Sun Devils were unable to get past the first round in the NCAA Tournament.
That said, Gardner pioneered the turnaround for ASU volleyball, and for her to claim her place on top of ASU volleyball's kills list seemed to be the perfect way to cement herself in the hearts and minds of Sun Devil fans.