18 players will take the court for the 2019 Arizona State volleyball team, half of which have never worn the maroon and gold for the Sun Devils.
Entering her third season at the helm, head coach Sanja Tomasevic will have nine players return from last year’s squad, including seniors Ivana Jeremic and Nicole Peterson. The Sun Devils finished the 2018 season 14-18, and 5-15 in a very tough Pac-12. The five wins in conference play was an improvement from the 2017 season however, in which ASU finished the season without a conference win.
Tomasevic has many decisions to make with nine new faces, including three new outside hitters.
The outside position is led by Jeremic, who has been a significant part of the Devils’ offense since she was a freshman. She has had 200+ kills in all three years as a Sun Devil. Jeremic should be a lock to see plenty of action on the court this year. The five other pin hitters are in the middle of an intense competition, which peaked on Saturday in the annual Maroon and Gold scrimmage.
“I have been here for four years and this is the hardest year when it comes to competition,” Jeremic said.
Two transfers, Andrea Mitrovic and Jada Burse, will be in the heat of the competition. Mitrovic transferred from Buffalo, where she earned All-MAC honors in both of her seasons. Burse will be playing her senior season with the Sun Devils after three years at Kansas. She received All-Big 12 nods in each of her three seasons as a Jayhawk. The team is expecting both to contribute heavily.
Incoming freshman Iman Isanovic made plenty of noise at the Maroon and Gold scrimmage, finishing with 20 kills in her first appearance at Wells Fargo Arena. Isanovic is from Bosnia, where she spent time playing for the Bosnian National Team.
“I take the competition on the outside as a huge blessing,” Isanovic said. “Just to have five other girls besides me that are working their tail off and give their all in every practice is an incredible thing. They are pushing me to do my best.”
Junior Claire Kovensky finished with 222 kills as a sophomore in 2018 after transferring from Grand Canyon University, but she also finds herself competing for playing time in 2019.
Setting up the outside hitters is senior Nicole Peterson. The former outside hitter transitioned to setter in the middle of her junior year, and now heading into her senior year she looks to prove she is the Sun Devils’ premier setter.
Senior Callie Jones also made a position change to setter from libero. She will have her named called to set up the pin hitters.
Sophomore Noa Miller rounds out the setters on the roster after transfering from Wofford.
The team heads into the 2019 season with only three middle blockers, including junior Megan Beedie, who led the Devils in hitting percentage last season. Beedie is set to be one of Arizona State’s most experienced and well-rounded players. Sophomore Avital Jaloba is projected to start for the first time in her ASU career opposite of Beedie.
The third middle blocker is freshman Kennedi Boyd, who was a two-time all-state player at her high school in Alpine, Utah.
Senior Courtney Leffel had breakout year in 2018 as the team’s starting libero. She finished sixth in the Pac-12 with 506 digs. The defensive specialist will be a core member of the Devils’ squad.
Sophomore Paige Denton will be the only other returning libero, as four freshmen liberos joined the team this season. Madi Berkholz, Emily Holbrook, Annika Larson and Hattie Patton have all had high levels of success at their respective high schools as Tomasevic plans on developing them to eventually replace Leffel.
The Sun Devils excelled in non-conference play in 2018, finishing the preseason with a record of 9-4. This year’s non-conference slate looks a little different than last year’s. The team plays every preseason game away from Tempe, after playing 6 non-conference games at Wells Fargo Arena in 2018.
Despite playing 11 straight games on the road, the team thinks it will be a positive experience.
“What I love about this preseason is that we have nine new players and when you’re at home, you don’t spend as much time together with them,” Tomasevic said. “We will be on the road three to four days a week so we will be together. It will give us time to be together. This is not a bad thing for the development of our team.”
The preseason schedule consists of four tournaments, including one in Houston and another in Las Vegas. Kansas, Houston, Oklahoma and LSU will be four of the 11 teams the Sun Devils face off against in preseason play.
The Sun Devils should handle this non-conference schedule with some ease, as the competition is not near the level Arizona State has played in recent years in the Pac-12. Nonetheless, with a young roster, no team is to be overlooked.
Away from non-conference, Arizona State has to endure another tough conference schedule in 2019. The ultra-competitive Pac-12 features half of the conference ranked in the preseason top-25.
After a 5-15 conference record in 2018, things won’t get any easier. Expect the Devils to make an improvement in their conference record, but going up against some of the top teams in the country is no easy task, and it could be an uphill fight throughout.
The Sun Devils get the season started on Friday, August 30 against Houston in the Flo Hyman Collegiate Cup at 10:30 MST.