No. 13 recruiting class will boost ASU volleyball in 2013

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                </div>Arizona State volleyball may be approaching that corner everyone talks about in sport programs – the one you need to get around in any rebuilding process. The ASU program will […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Arizona State volleyball may be approaching that corner everyone talks about in sport programs – the one you need to get around in any rebuilding process.

The ASU program will enter its sixth season under head coach Jason Watson and it looks like the native Australian has the program ready to turn the corner and begin to gain some traction within the Pac-12 Conference, and perhaps even nationally.

After struggling through three sub-.500 seasons and then bottoming out in 2011 by posting a 9-22 season and a 10th-place conference finish, a top-25 recruiting class helped the program to a 20-win season in 2012, the first time that’s happened since 1993.

And the Class of 2013 appears to hold even more promise.  A local athlete from Scottsdale is one of four highly-ranked recruits that have given the Sun Devils a No. 13 national ranking from PrepVolleyball.com.

And that’s the common denominator for all college programs that are able to step up to the next level: recruiting top talent.

Genevieve Pirotte is a 5’11” outside hitter from Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale who is the shortest of the group.  She is joined by BreElle Bailey and Kwyn Johnson, a couple of 6’4″ outside hitters; and McKenzie Willey, a 6’1 outside hitter.

The 2012 season was the most successful since Watson arrived in 2008 from BYU, where he compiled an .802 winning percentage and took the Cougars to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.  Last season the team earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the first time in six years.

Their sixth-place finish in the Pac-12 was also the best during his tenure in Tempe; the Devils had been picked in the pre-season to finish in eighth place.  His head-coaching job at BYU was his first after 11 seasons as an assistant with various college programs, but he wasted no time in establishing his right to the job, being named the Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year his first season.

And now he may be finding similar success in Tempe to what he found in Provo.

There is reason for optimism beyond a stellar recruiting class of freshmen.  He will also have the services of a local standout who spent a year at the University of Tennessee and has transferred to ASU to provide some additional experience to the roster.

Bianca Arellano graduated from Xavier Prep in 2011 and was wooed to Tennessee, where she gained valuable experience in 30 matches as a setter for the Volunteers.  She finished the season with the second-most assists on the team.

Arellano helped Xavier to three state titles while she played at the Catholic high school in Phoenix and was named the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year in her senior season.

That makes three former Xavier Prep players on the 2013 roster at ASU.  Stephanie Preach and Jenny Teslevich, both seniors and both liberos, were top high school players.  Preach was a two-time Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year and three-time selection to the All-Arizona Team, while Teslevich was a defensive standout and made the All-Region Team twice and the All-State team once.

Preach finished last season with 619 digs, which puts her fourth on ASU’s all-time single-season list and fourth on the career list with 1,460 digs.

There are two other local athletes on the 17-player roster: Macey Gardner from Gilbert High School and Bethany Jorgensen from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe.  This will be the final campaign for Jorgensen, an outside hitter who saw action in 18 games last year, coming onto the floor primarily as a serving specialist.

Gardner is a sophomore with a huge upside.  The 6’1″ outside hitter wrapped up an impressive freshman year with 577 kills to put her second on the school’s all-time list – and set a freshman season record.  She set another freshman mark with 4.40 kills per set and is just the third freshman ever to lead the Pac-12 in total kills.

But the newcomers may make the difference this year, as they focus on the goal of getting the program past the first round of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost last year to Oklahoma.

“Our 2013 recruiting class represents the efforts of so many people,” Watson acknowledged when presenting his new recruits last week.  “Our staff, administration, and athletes worked tirelessly to create a relationship of trust with this class… they are a group of athletes I am eager to see contribute and help build upon our 2012 season.”

(Photo: ASU Athletics)