In a week where the No. 1 team in the nation was upset, the Arizona State Sun Devils (10-10, 0-8 Pac-12) nearly took down No. 13 Utah (15-3, 6-1 Pac-12), but fell short in four sets 26-24, 17-25, 29-31, 26-28 on Sunday afternoon.
“We always try to stay together as a team,” sophomore setter Nicole Peterson said. “We’re still struggling with trying to start off strong not just finish strong.”
The first set was tightly contested. The Sun Devils fought back from several deficits to keep the set close.
There was an apparent effort to get freshman outside hitter Griere Hughes involved in the match early. She totaled 14 attempts in the set and turned eight of those attempts into kills.
Hughes first set performance along with the passing from the Sun Devils enabled them to strike first. With no surprise, senior libero Halle Harker led the charge with eight digs.
The passing enabled ASU to limit the effectiveness of Utes senior outside hitter Adora Anae, who converted four kills on 13 attempts, but had three errors.
The second set was more of the same. The two teams traded blows and runs throughout. With a 8-0 run from Utah late in the set to take the set.
It was not Anae that made the difference for the Utes though, it was senior outside hitter Carly Trueman. She added five kills in the set and led the Utah offense to a .454 hitting percentage in the second set.
The Sun Devils struggled to sideout, only siding out at a 43-percent clip.
It looked like it was all Utah at the beginning of the third set. Trueman adding another five kills early on. However, the Sun Devils did not make the set easy.
Hughes reasserted herself with four more kills and a huge momentum building block to grab the Sun Devils first lead of the set at 20-19.
Senior outside hitter Oluoma Okaro, who was stifled for most of the match before this point also started to figure it out. Adding five kills of her own.
Anae answered back though, coming back onto the court after spending all of the second and most of the third set on the Utes’ bench. Putting down three powerful swings at the end of the set to give Utah the set win.
“I think that she had a bad day,” ASU head coach Sanja Tomasevic said. “She’s human. I agree with those people that say she’s one of the best players in the Pac-12. She came in when she needed to come in and did what she needed to do.”
The Sun Devils fought in the fourth set as well, but after a few controversial calls and an ace the Utes were able to grab the final set.
Hughes would finish the match with 18 kills, a career-high, but it was not enough as Trueman led Utah with 20 kills en route to the match win.
“Griere had an awesome match,” Tomasevic said. “It’s a shame it had to end the way it did (the ace).”
The Sun Devils are on the road next, but will be traveling without Tomasevic who is expecting a child. They will face both Oregon schools.