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ASU Volleyball: The Sun Devils take No. 20 Bears to five sets, but lose under pressure

Moral victory

Richard Martinez/ House of Sparky

The Arizona State volleyball team took No. 20 California to five sets, but ultimately couldn’t get the job done (18-25, 25-18, 25-20, 27-25, 12-15) on Sunday afternoon in Tempe.

The Sun Devils (13-12, 5-9 Pac-12) started strong both offensively and defensively in the first set, hitting for a .395 hitting percentage. Meanwhile, they held the Golden Bears (20-4, 10-4) to a .094 hitting percentage.

The strong start didn’t last long, as the second set saw a role reversal. The Bears flipped the box score, as they won the set 25-18. The Golden Bears took the third set easily as well. Outside hitter Bailey Huizenga shined in the game for Cal, she finished with 18 kills on a .410 hitting percentage. Lauren Forte provided a defensive spark for the Bears as well, with five blocks.

The fourth set was a different story for both teams. The Sun Devils got out to an 11-3 lead but couldn’t hold on. The game went to overtime, but timely plays from Megan Beedie and Andrea Mitrovic gave the Devils the advantage, 27-25.

The Devils then jumped out to an early lead in the final set, but the Bears found their way back into it. The back and forth set came down to the wire, but big plays from Mima Mirkovic was the difference in the set and the match. The final point scored by Cal was a service error by Andrea Mitrovic.

“It’s really hard to get the same pressure in practice as in the games,” middle blocker Megan Beedie said. “That is something we struggle with.”

Head coach Sanja Tomasevic went with an experience lineup tonight, as all seven of the starters are upperclassmen.

Pin hitter Mitrovic was one of the many bright spots for the Devils offensively. She finished with a match-high 20 kills on a .395 clip. Despite a good offensive showing for ASU, Mitrovic was the only outside hitter who found success. Ivana Jeremic, Jada Burse or Claire Kovensky couldn’t get anything done, as all three posted hitting percentages less than .100.

The middle blockers both brought their A game to the court on Sunday. Megan Beedie and Avital Jaloba both hit over .400 and had 13 and seven kills, respectively. They both contributed defensively as well, as Beedie had five blocks along with Jaloba’s four.

“We have been working a lot on our middles,” said coach Tomasevic. “We have been putting more pressure on them to perform.”

Setter Nicole Peterson was injured and did not play in the game, leaving the passing duties up to senior Callie Jones and sophomore Noa Miller. The both has 25 or more assists, giving the Sun Devils their ninth game of 50 assists or more this season.

“Nicole is our ace when she serves,” Tomasevic said. “Both Callie and Miller served great tonight.”

The loss brings the Devils’ losing streak to four and their Pac-12 record to 5-9. Arizona State will head to the state of Oregon to take on the Ducks and Beavers, on Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Both games will be broadcasted on Pac-12 Networks.

“We still believe we can make the tournament,” Tomasevic added. “We need to beat the Oregon teams.”