Arizona State is one of six schools in the Pac-12 that is using instant replay at its home volleyball matches, a system initiated last season by the NCAA as an option for each of its members.
Right now, the only replay option the Sun Devils would appreciate would be a chance to replay their last dozen games. After the non-conference portion of the schedule got off to a good start, with the Devils winning 10 of their first 12 games, the wins suddenly evaporated.
Not surprising, that was the same time they hit conference play. The Devils opened the Pac-12 schedule against rival University of Arizona, lost that one 0-3, and haven’t recovered yet. They made a good run at a win in the second game, losing 2-3 to Washington, but haven’t won more than a set in each of the next 10 matches and got shut out in five of those.
That’s a really rocky start for a new head coach.
Sanja Tomasevic joined the ASU program last season as an assistant to Stevie Mussie and then stepped into the head-coach position when Mussie abruptly left the program immediately after the final game of the 2016 season. She came to ASU to work with Mussie, an old friend, leaving her job as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Miami.
Now she finds herself in charge of a program that Jason Watson led into the national rankings during his seven years at the helm, but stumbled through a five-win conference schedule last year under Mussie. The Devils are 10-14 going into Friday’s road game at USC, and still looking for that first conference victory that will bring with it a renewed confidence.
But the picture going forward isn’t encouraging. The Trojans are ranked No. 17 in the country, and then the Devils will be faced with No. 18 UCLA, No. 16 Oregon, and No. 15 Utah. Also included in the final eight games on the schedule are Oregon State and Colorado, both teams that just missed making into the top 25.
Oh yeah, then Tomasevic gets to wrap her inaugural season by traveling down the road to Tucson, where the Devils will play the Wildcats for a second time. The Wildcats, too, are having their problems. They’ve won just two of their last 11 matches and are 9-12 on the season, with just three conference victories.
But they did blank ASU in that first encounter. And this time will be playing in front of a supportive crowd.
Tomasevic is still building her roster since she didn’t inherit a large contingent of seniors. Those returning included libero Halle Harker, middle blocker Oluoma Okaro, and defensive specialist Blair Robalin. The addition of senior Isabel Miller, a graduate of Arcadia High School who played her first three years at Boise State and San Diego-Mesa College, helped provide some depth.
Next year her players will have matured and gained from valuable experience. But there’s still this year to deal with, and very little time to collect some wins to build momentum going into next season.
Right now, the season finale against Arizona looks like it may be their best chance to accomplish that.
But even that doesn’t look like a smart bet.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)