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ASU Volleyball: Bruins’ efficient attack too much for Sun Devils

The ASU defense could not keep up with a well-balanced UCLA offense.

Photo taken by Nicole Hernandez/

The No. 13 UCLA Bruins (11-4, 4-2 Pac-12) came into Tempe and used a spread offensive scheme to down the Arizona State Sun Devils (10-7, 0-5 Pac-12) in four sets 25-14, 20-25, 25-20, 25-19 on Friday night.

Early on in the first set, the more consistent attack of the Bruins overpowered the Sun Devil defense. Behind four quick kills from sophomore middle blocker, they had a 12-7 lead.

The Sun Devils were able to hang in the first set as junior middle blocker Peyton Grahovac notched kills on her first four attempts.

The Bruins pulled away quickly however, hitting with a .588 hitting percentage.

Senior outside hitter Oluoma Okaro was silent for the Sun Devils most of the first set. Okaro, who usually leads the team in attempts and kills in most matches, only tallied two attempts through the set and did not record a kill.

“Shelbie (Dobmeier) forgot about her,” ASU head coach Sanja Tomasevic said. “She was trying to establish our middles early. But you can’t forget about Oluoma.”

Okaro did not waste much time getting involved in the second set. Recording a block and two early kills she pushed the Sun Devils to a 9-6 lead.

The ASU defense woke up to keep the momentum in the set. Senior libero Halle Harker led the way, as the Sun Devils recorded 14 digs, four more than the whole first set, to grab a 16-15 lead over the Bruins.

There was no response from UCLA and Okaro would finish the set with eight kills en route to the Sun Devil victory in the second.

The third set opened up blow-for-blow between the two teams. UCLA was able to grab a slight edge as freshman outside hitter Jenny Mosser put down three kills for an 8-7 lead.

UCLA would pull away and the Sun Devils could not muster a comeback as senior setter Sarah Sponcil led the Bruins offense efficiently, helped by freshman outside hitter May Mac, who recorded seven kills in the set.

“Everyone has a different hitter to pay attention to,” Okaro said of the Sun Devils inability to defend the Bruin attack. “I just focus on which hitter has which tendency and go off of that.”

An early challenge and a reversed out call put momentum on the Bruins side of the net, as they raced out to an 11-7 lead in set four.

However, an error and a couple mistakes on UCLA’s side of the net led to the Sun Devils coming back to knot the set up at four-all.

The Sun Devil attack cooled down and the Bruins pulled away behind Gates.

Tomasevic was forced to call a timeout down by a four-point deficit.

That gap would remain, as UCLA went onto win the fourth and deciding set in the match. A Sun Devil error would result in the final point.

Okaro would finish the match with 14 kills on a .225 hitting percentage. Joined by sophomore outside hitter Ivana Jeremic as the only to Sun Devil attackers with double-digit kills.

“It’s not all the time that it is going to be a perfect pass and perfect set,” Jeremic said. “It’s up to you to get right there in the right moment.”

Next up for ASU is the No. 15 USC Trojans (12-4 overall, 4-1 Pac-12) Saturday night in Wells Fargo Arena.