ASU, UA volleyball teams hold their own vs. No. 1 Stanford

<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons above -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2014/10/asu-ua-volleyball-teams-hold-vs-1-stanford/' addthis:title='ASU, UA volleyball teams hold their own vs. No. 1 Stanford'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>  Over the weekend, both of Arizona’s Pac-12 volleyball programs got a chance to test themselves against the No. 1 team in the country.  The results weren’t what had been […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2014/10/asu-ua-volleyball-teams-hold-vs-1-stanford/' addthis:title='ASU, UA volleyball teams hold their own vs. No. 1 Stanford'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>

 

Over the weekend, both of Arizona’s Pac-12 volleyball programs got a chance to test themselves against the No. 1 team in the country.  The results weren’t what had been hoped for – but they were encouraging.

Neither University of Arizona, which knocked off USC last season about this same time when the Trojans were the No. 1 team in the country, nor Arizona State emerged with a win – but each found it could play with a team like Stanford.

While Stanford took the match from each school as it traveled first to Tucson and then across the state to Tempe, Arizona and ASU each took a set from the undefeated Cardinal, something that hasn’t happened often this season.  The Wildcats’ second-set victory was just the eighth set that 16-0 Stanford had lost so far, and the ninth occurred when the Sun Devils took the first set of their encounter with the Pac-12 opponent.

Arizona drew 3,238 fans to the contest at McKale Center, just a few hundred shy of the big crowd that showed up a couple of weeks earlier for the rivalry match with Arizona State.

The results of the Arizona schools’ head-to-head meetings with the top dog evidently did little to change their image in the eyes of the other Division I college coaches.  Arizona hadn’t moved from its No. 16 spot when the new AVA Coaches poll came out yesterday, and ASU actually moved up a notch from No. 18 to No. 17.

The Wildcats, however, hold a huge lead over their rivals in Tempe when it comes to the NCAA RPI rankings, where Arizona is ranked No. 14 and ASU is No. 38.

Both teams split the weekend by beating the California Golden Bears, not a particularly impressive accomplishment since Cal sits at the bottom of the Pac-12 ladder, tied with Washington State at 0-6.  Arizona, at 4-2, is tied with Oregon for third place in the conference and 3-3 ASU is tied with UCLA for fifth place.

Arizona’s issues against Stanford revolved around a defense that failed to keep a lid on the Cardinal.  While the Wildcats hit .259 offensively, their defense allowed Stanford to hit .408.

“We didn’t defend well tonight and that’s something that we normally do,” said Arizona head coach Dave Rubio shortly after the match concluded.  “That’s normally where we beat other teams, with our digging.  Those digs turn into transition swings and we score.  Tonight that wasn’t the case.  I thought we served really well, our scoring was good, our blocking was okay, but our defense was poor.”

The teams were even in the blocking department, with each recording seven blocks.  McKenzie Jacobsen, the 6’6″ redshirt freshman, led the way for the Cats with three solo blocks and one assist. But Stanford had the edge in digs, 69-59.

Three Arizona players finished the match with double-digit kills: Madi Kingdon (22), Taylor Arizobal (14) and Ashley Harris (13).  Kingdon is a local product from Sunnyslope High School, where she was named the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year as a senior.  The 6’1″ outside hitter was inserted into the starting line-up as a freshman and, now in her senior year, she is on track to finish her career withe the most games played in the history of the program.

Her 22 kills against Stanford is the 22nd match of her career in which she has collected 20 or more kills.

When the Cardinal motored up to Tempe on Sunday to play at Wells Fargo Arena, the Sun Devils were ready for them.

ASU took the first match of the set, 25-20, but couldn’t keep up the momentum.  “I thought that when we had our personality and our composure that we played well,” said Devil head coach Jason Watson.  “The disappointment comes from thinking we’d be able to play better for longer – and we just weren’t able to do that.”

Like Arizona, the Sun Devils also had three players in double-digit numbers for kills in the match.  Outside hitter Macey Gardner led with 15 kills, while middle blocker Mercedes Binns contributed 12, and sophomore outside hitter Kizzy Willey added 10 kills.

The teams were pretty even in kills, with Stanford recording 54 and ASU 52.

Gardner is another local recruit, from Gilbert High School. The six-foot junior set the freshman record for kills with 577 and last year led the team with 506, or 4 1/2 per set, which was second-most in the Pac-12.

The challenging road through the Pac-12 schedule has another big speed bump ahead this weekend, with ASU preparing to host the Washington Huskies on Friday and the Wildcats getting them on Sunday.

Washington is the team that is tied with Stanford at 6-0 atop the conference standings.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)