Sept. 17, 2012
TEMPE, Ariz. - Arizona State volleyball will play its first Pac-12 matches this week as the Sun Devils travel to Tucson to face Arizona on Tuesday, marking the first match of conference play and the Territorial Cup Series. ASU will host Washington State at 6 p.m. on Friday.
The Sun Devils enter conference play with the second most wins among Pac-12 schools, behind USC who is 12-0. ASU's 11-2 record this season marks the most victories the program has had leading into the conference portion of the schedule since 1982, when ASU had 14 wins (14-3) under Dale Flickinger - members of the Western Collegiate Athletic Association. The 11 wins also tie the third-most all time going into conference play behind 1982 (14 wins), 1981 (13 wins) and 1980 (11 wins).
ASU is paced offensively by Macey Gardner and Erica Wilson who have 241 and 213 kills, respectively. Gardner leads the conference in kills per set with 4.82 and also holds the conference's single-match high of 28 kills, at UC Irvine. Wilson currently ranks fifth in kills per set (4.26), second in service aces (0.46) and second in points (5.10/s). Allison Palmer, ASU's freshman setter, is on lock with the offense, offering up 11.92 assists per set (2nd in Pac-12) and has already recorded four double-doubles this year.
Defensively the Sun Devils are strong behind performances from Stephanie Preach and Alexis Pinson. Preach ranks second in the conference for her 4.90 digs per set while Pinson is tops on the squad in blocks (1.26 per set, 63 total). Pinson is having a breakout start to the year, already rewriting her career record in three categories.
About the Arizona Series:
The Wildcats lead the series 42-39. ASU split the Territorial Cup Series in 2011 winning its season finale, 3-1, on senior day in Tempe. The last time the two teams met, returners Nora Tuioti-Mariner had 12 kills, Wilson seven kills and Shannan McCready posted a double-double of 41 assists and 11 digs.
ASU has the edge on this series, 29-24 despite dropping both matches in 2011 (L, 3-0 Oct. 29; L, 3-2 Sept. 23). Under head coach Jason Watson the season is split 4-all. The last time the two teams met returners Tuioti-Mariner, Kylee Terhune and Wilson led offensively with seven, six and five kills each, respectively. McCready was held to 34 assists while defensively Preach (13 digs) split the digs with Jenny Teslevich (11 digs).
ASU won three tournaments in the non-conference portion of the season: UTEP's El Paso Sports Commission Invitational, UCI/LMU Dual Classic and the ASU Sheraton Invitational.
Along with compiling an 11-2 record during non-conference play, the Sun Devils garnered individual awards as well.
UTEP All-Tournament: Macey Gardner, Stephanie Preach, MVP Erica Wilson
UCI/LMU All-Tournament: Macey Gardner, Stephanie Preach
Kansas All-Tournament: Macey Gardner, Erica Wilson
ASU All-Tournament: Alexis Pinson, Stephanie Preach, MVP Macey Gardner
ASU has five sweeps in 2012. The last time the program had as many was in 2009, when six were recorded under Jason Watson.
ASU is on a five game win streak, just one shy of its previous season record of six which dated from Aug. 24 to Sept. 1.
Gardner has six double-doubles on the year and was named the Pac-12 Volleyball Freshman of the Week on Sept.17, becoming just the second rookie to gardner the award for the program.
ASU opens Pac-12 play at Arizona in the first match of the Territorial Cup Series on Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 7 p.m. PT. The Sun Devils will then return home to Wells Fargo Arena on Friday to host Washington State at 6 p.m. on Friday. Both games will be on the Pac-12 Regional Network, will have live stats through GameTracker and Blaze Radio will continue its live coverage of home matches on Friday, here.