ASU volleyball and women’s soccer chalk up huge wins

If you were an Arizona State fan on the Tempe campus yesterday, you couldn’t go wrong with your choice of sports to watch.

In the cool confines of Wells Fargo Arena, the volleyball team was busy accomplishing something that has eluded them for the past 15 years.

And if you wanted to enjoy the warm Arizona outdoors, you could have joined the 1,513 other fans – a record crowd for ASU – who watched the women’s soccer team take down the University of Arizona to get an important win in the State Farm Territorial Cup Series.

The Sun Devil volleyball team (7-11) took four sets to do it, but finally beat USC for the first time since 1995.  And to make it all the more impressive, the Women of Troy were ranked No. 5 in the country coming into the contest.

This was just the third loss for USC in 17 matches.

ASU won the first set, 29-27, behind sophomore Erica Wilson‘s four kills and a defensive effort sparked by eight digs by Sarah Johnson, the senior libero from Sunnyslope High School.  Johnson has recorded 400 digs in each of the last two seasons and set the school record for digs while playing at Sunnyslope in 2006, the year the Vikings won the state championship.

Wilson, a 6’1″ middle blocker, came through again in the second set, with five of the team’s eight blocks and ASU won 25-23.  But USC came back to win the third set, 25-14, as the Devils dropped the last 10 consecutive points.

Another local high school product, Sarah Reeves, stepped up to help wrap up the fourth and final set, 25-23, which went through six tie scores.  Reeves, the senior outside hitter from Ironwood High School in Glendale, had six kills and a .312 attack percentage.  On defense, she contributed four blocks.

Reeves, who holds the school record at Ironwood for career kills and single-game kills, has led ASU in kills the past three years, collecting 459 during the 2009 season.

Meanwhile the women’s soccer team (8-3-2) was taking care of business, beating the Wildcats (4-8-2), 2-1, in a physical contest that included a combined 28 fouls, split pretty evenly between the two schools.  Twenty-two of those fouls came in the second half as UofA fought to overcome ASU’s 1-0 start.

Alexandra Elston, the senior from Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, tied her single-game career by scoring both Sun Devil goals.  The 5’6″ midfielder headed the first goal off a corner kick by freshman Holland Crook in the 29th minute, and then shot a free kick past the near post in the 75th minute for the winner.

The game-winning goal was the seventh of Elston’s college career and she now sits in a tie for fifth place on ASU’s all-time list.

Alyssa Gillmore, the sophomore goalkeeper, made fours saves to preserve the win in the latest rivalry match.

This was an important win for the Sun Devils since it is their conference home opener and was their chance to avenge last year’s double-overtime loss to the Cats.  And the year before saw the same 2-1 double-overtime loss.

But Elston made sure that this game wasn’t going into overtime for a third straight year.

The ASU win also helps balance the results in this year’s Territorial Cup Series, since UofA swept the volleyball team Oct. 1 in Tucson.  The Cats picked up half a point in the Series with their volleyball win and need a win later this month against ASU to get the other half.  But ASU will pick up a full point since this is the only time the two soccer teams meet during the season.

Volleyball and women’s soccer are just two of 18 teams involved in acquiring points in the competition, with each sport contributing a full point toward earning the trophy at the end of the year.

(Photo: ASU Athletics/Robert Kline)