13-19. That was how the ASU Sun Devils ended their 2022 season. A season to forget, and one that ended with the parting of ways with the head coach, a large number of players entering the transfer portal, and many questions surrounding the future of the team. During the offseason, a new head coach was hired, along with a brand new coaching staff, and a whole new team outlook. Nine players returned, and six new players joined, rounding out the team at 15. New head coach JJ Van Niel, formerly the associate head coach at USC for five seasons, stressed the importance of team chemistry and camaraderie as soon as he arrived in the spring and continued that message through the summer and preseason.
14-0. That’s the Sun Devils’ record through 14 games this season. After a stellar preseason where they went 12-0, including nine sweeps, including six consecutive leading into the start of conference play, ASU Women’s Volleyball turned their attention to their final season in the Pac-12, which, for them, began on Thursday, September 21. The Devils began preparing for their home opener against their in-state rivals, the Arizona Wildcats, on Thursday, September 21, and their 50th Anniversary celebration against the Washington Huskies on Sunday, September 24.
It was announced that the games would be played at Mullett Arena, the home of the ASU Hockey team and the Arizona Coyotes, rather than Desert Financial Arena, which the volleyball team has called home for many years. Mullett Arena offered a more intimate setting for the first weekend of volleyball of the season, and a chance to pack the arena, which they did. The sell-out crowd of 4,816 on Thursday night was the third-highest attendance in history for the Devils and the first time surpassing 4,000 since 2015. Sunday’s match had an attendance of 3,941, which is the sixth-highest attendance at an ASU volleyball game.
THURSDAY NIGHT VS. ARIZONA
In the sold-out home opener, the ASU Sun Devils faced off against the University of Arizona Wildcats in the last Pac-12 meeting between these two teams before they both join the Big-12 next year. The Sun Devils swept the Wildcats, winning the first game in this season’s Territorial Cup.
In the first set, ASU was in the driver’s seat from the get-go. Long rallies and big plays led to points for the Devils and allowed ASU to build up a comfortable lead. Towards the middle of the set, the Devils held a 5-point lead and maintained that edge until the end, when they closed out the set after 3 set points, winning 25-22.
The second set was a much closer match, with the two teams trading points and neither able to pull ahead. Finally, with the score at 20-18 in favor of the Wildcats, ASU went on a six-point scoring run to go up 24-20. They closed out the set a couple points later, winning 25-21.
In the third set, ASU showed off their dominant nature, building a sizable lead and never looking back. Near the end of the set, with the score at 19-14 U of A, the Wildcats head coach challenged a play, leading to a long delay and a U of A point. The Devils responded with a kill, and then a 6-0 run to close out the set and the match, 25-15.
The Sun Devils received production from multiple different players, but a few standouts included 19 kills from Marta Levinska, the most recent Pac-12 Player of the Week, 4 blocks from Claire Jeter, 13 digs from Geli Cyr, and 36 Assists from Shannon Shields. The Devils improved to 13-0 on the season, 1-0 in the Pac-12, and 1-0 at home.
SUNDAY AFTERNOON VS. WASHINGTON
In the 50th Anniversary Celebration game, the Sun Devils faced off against the Washington Huskies. ASU wore new black sleeveless jerseys with “Devils” written across the front in gold. During the match, ASU Volleyball alumni were honored for being part of 50 years of Sun Devil Volleyball. In the final Pac-12 matchup between these two teams (Washington will be joining the Big-10 next season), the Sun Devils won the match 3-1.
In the first set, ASU and Washington stayed close together in points for most of the set, but late in the game, the Huskies pulled ahead with a four-point advantage to lead 20-16, then again 24-20, before ending the set with a 25-22 victory.
During the second set, ASU showed just how well they can bounce back. They built a lead from the start, and never let the Huskies back in the game. The Devils built a seven-point lead in the middle of the set, and although the lead dropped a bit towards the end, they were able to close out the set with a 25-19 victory.
Set three started off very similar to the way the first set started, with the Devils and the Huskies trading points and leads. With the score tied at 7, ASU pulled ahead and went on a 8-4 run to take the lead 15-11. The Devils continued putting pressure on the Huskies, and pushed their lead to 22-14. Then, after Washington scored twice, Arizona State closed out the set with three consecutive points to win 25-16.
The fourth set proved to be ASU’s strongest, as they held a comfortable lead throughout the entire set. Nearing the end, the Devils again led 22-14, and on match point, a kill put the Devils up 25-16 to close out the match.
For the second match in a row, the Sun Devils had multiple players contributing in big ways. Marta Levinska led the team with 19 kills for the second match in a row, and also picked up 10 digs, notching her first double-double of the season. Geli Cyr had 10 kills and 10 blocks and also picked up her first double-double of the season. Mary Shroll led the team with 14 digs, and Shannon Shields had 49 assists. The win on Sunday put the Sun Devils at 14-0, ending their streak of 7 consecutive sweeps, but improving to 14-0 on the season, 2-0 in Pac-12, and 2-0 at home.
NEXT FOR THE SUN DEVILS
The Arizona State Sun Devils will begin their first Pac-12 road trip of the year later this week, as they travel to Northern California to take on the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal on Friday and the UC Berkeley Golden Bears on Sunday.