TEMPE — The historic season for the Arizona State Sun Devils continued as they escaped USC in five sets (25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 15-25, 15-9) at Desert Financial Arena, snapping the nine-game losing streak against the Trojans.
Arizona State (16-1, 4-1 Pac-12) played its second straight five-set match after taking down Cal in Berkeley just five days prior. The Trojans led the Sun Devils in kills (70 to ASU’s 53), hitting percentage (.256 to ASU’s .211), points (86 to ASU’s 67) and assists (65 to ASU’s 50), yet Arizona State came out victorious.
“That can definitely happen and the super important thing is being gritty and relentless coming out in that fifth set,” libero Mary Shroll said of the score not reflecting the stats. “Going into the fifth, we were just really fired up and ready to go. That is a testament to our team and how well we have played with each other. We trust each other and it really shows coming out in the fifth set and just being gritty. Some things might not have gone our way tonight, but in the end we pulled it together and just played as a team.”
Coach JJ Van Niel said he was happy with the conference win and proud of the effort in the tough five-set stretch. “Pretty up-and-down game. I was proud of the team for how they just continued to grind away. Obviously in the fourth set they (USC) came out really hot after quite frankly just a pretty ugly third set. One of the weird things in volleyball is you play three out of five and you can be really bad in one game and you can still win the match... Really fired up for that win and excited for the kids.”
No. 23 Arizona State then welcomed UCLA to Mullet Arena and swept the Bruins (25-20, 25-15, 25-22). ASU took town UCLA in 2021, but registered its first sweep over the Bruins since 2009. The Sun Devils improved to 17-1 (5-1 Pac-12) on the season.
This was Arizona State’s 11th sweep of the season — the highest sweep total for the Sun Devils in 15. After trailing USC in key statistics, ASU bounced back and led the Bruins in kills, hitting percentage, points, assists and aces.
“I thought Friday was super emotional and today could’ve been one of those let down matches, regardless of who you’re playing,” Niel said. “UCLA is a good team, but we were firing right out of the gate and at a really high efficiency, which has kinda been how we are winning matches.”
Shroll and outside hitter Geli Cyr both notched double-digit digs while opposite Marta Levinska led with 14 kills, followed by outside hitter Roberta Rabelo with 10.
“Don’t underestimate us,” setter Shannon Shields said. “After being ranked 23rd, I feel like that already put us on the map. I’m seeing a lot more people pay attention to us, but after these two wins and especially a sweep, I think we’re gonna have a bigger target on our back. But I’m excited and we’re gonna be on the road these next two weeks. So it’s gonna be fun.”