Following a semi-disappointing road-trip last weekend, where Sun Devil volleyball swept Utah, then got swept by Colorado, ASU returned to Tempe needing to swing the momentum against Cal and No. 3 Stanford. After dispatching Cal to right the ship, the Sun Devils re-established their winning ways in a shocking sweep of the No. 3 Cardinal, by scores of 25-16, 25-21, 25-14.
“If we play like that, we can beat anyone,” Coach JJ Van Niel said postgame. “We played really, really well and on any given night if we play like that, we can beat anyone.”
Despite the narrow win against Cal and lackluster performance against Stanford the first time around, the Devils knew they could put up a fight and be more dominant the second time around against the Bay Area schools. And they showed off their dominance in a big way.
On Friday night, at Desert Financial Arena, the Sun Devils swept the Golden Bears (25-20, 25-19, 25-13) while hitting .231 and racking up 39 kills, compared to the Bears .028 hitting percentage and 26 kills. The Devils were led by opposite Marta Levinska who had 18 kills, middle blocker Claire Jeter who had 8 blocks, and libero Mary Shroll and outside hitter Gli Cyr, who each had 11 digs. The Devils didn’t stop and celebrate their win over Cal for too long, though, as an even taller task awaited them 48 hours later.
On Sunday, at Mullett Arena, ASU had the chance to do something they already did once this season, take down a Top-5 team. A few weeks prior, on October 15, ASU beat then #5 ranked Oregon in three sets in Eugene. And on Sunday, ASU wiped the floor with the Cardinal.
In a statement win, the Sun Devils took down the #3-ranked Stanford Cardinal in three sets (25-16, 25-21, 25-14). From the get-go, the Devils were in the driver’s seat, holding the Cardinal to a .194 hitting percentage across the three sets, and 34 kills and 14 hitting errors. By comparison, the Devils had a .311 hitting percentage, 41 kills, and only 9 errors.
Once again, ASU was led by opposite Marta Levinska, who had 17 kills, Shannon Shiels with 28 assists, and Levinska and libero Mary Shroll, who each had 12 digs. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Devils received production from every person who stepped onto the court. The hitters took advantage of a sloppy Stanford block, and the defense made amazing plays to limit Stanford’s opportunities for kills.
In terms of history, the win over Stanford marked the first time ASU had swept Stanford since 1993, their second ever sweep of Stanford, and their first time sweeping two Top-5 teams in one season. The win also marked their 6th time beating a Top-5 team in history, and their eighth season with 21+wins.
On Monday morning, the new NCAA and AVCA (American Volleyball Coaches Association) rankings came out, and ASU kept moving on up. First, ASU was ranked 10th in Michella Chesters’s NCAA Power-10 rankings. In the NCAA and AVCA rankings, ASU was placed at 15, up six places from where they were the previous weekend.
In the next few weeks, ASU travels to Los Angeles to play UCLA and USC, before returning home to Arizona for a Thursday November 9 rematch against Colorado, a Saturday November 11 match against Utah, and then a Friday November 17 match against Oregon and a Sunday November 19 rematch against Oregon State.
With only 8 games remaining in the regular season, it will be exciting to see how the Sun Devils can finish off this season and prepare for what will hopefully be a deep playoff run in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament.