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Arizona State Sun Devils

The Sun Devils Cinderella Season Ends At the Sweet 16.

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I don’t know if Head Coach JJ Van Niel would call this a Cinderella season, but it sure felt like it.

A team that has had a losing season each of the past three years, lost the most players in the transfer portal out of the Power 5, and was bringing in a first-year head coach, there weren’t high expectations for the Sun Devils this year.

But man, they exceeded any expectation they had. They won 27 games and made it to Sweet 16 by sweeping feisty Georgia and BYU, but unfortunately, the best team in the Pac-12 acted like it tonight. The Sun Devils lost 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-21).

Stanford looked the part of a 1-seed. Despite struggling early, elite teams rely on their stars in crucial moments, and the Cardinal did just that. Pac-12 Player of the Year Kendall Kipp was electric tonight. She had 23 kills,  while Ella Rubin had 19. That 1-2 punch for the Cardinal proved too much for the Sun Devils to handle.

Now, Arizona State put up a fight. In fact, they won the first set. In a set that was back and forth early, the Sun Devils took an early lead and didn’t let it up. They used Stanford errors to win that set. In the first set alone, Stanford had 15 errors that resulted in points for ASU. ASU didn’t even perform that well offensively, only totaling eight kills in the first set. Marta Levinska, the star for the Sun Devils, only had three, but they pulled out the first set and looked like they might be in this.

Unfortunately, their offense just didn’t have it tonight. Stanford was getting to almost every kill; they were blocking shots, and Arizona could not put shots away. It started in the second set when Stanford finally got their offense rolling. ASU stayed in it for most of the set, but unfortunately, Kipp proved too strong and pounded the Sun Devils with shots almost every chance she got.

One person to note is Mary Shroll, the libero for the Sun Devils. She was everywhere tonight and had 16 digs midway through the second set, which was double anyone else on the floor. She was carrying this team.

It was just a bad setting night for Shannon Shields. When Shields was targeting Levinska, she was fine. When she targeted anyone else, her sets didn’t allow for many swings. They just weren’t put in places Geli Cyr could get to.

The third set was when you could start to see the difference in energy. Volleyball is all about swings and generating swings because you aren’t going to get many points just tipping the ball over the net. But, the sets from Shields just weren’t allowing for many swings, and when they did, Stanford’s tall middles were right there to block them back. In the third set, Arizona State only had 38 total attempts, while Stanford had 42.

The final set was all Stanford from the jump. Stanford dominated the entire set, and even though the score was 25-21, ASU made a late surge that got them within shouting distance. ASU made too many mistakes in the fourth set, including four service errors. It was an incredibly hard-fought match. Marta Levinska finished with 17 kills, while Geli Cyr had 16. Mary Shroll had a season-high 30 digs tonight, passing her previous mark of 23 in the Oregon game. However, it wasn’t on Arizona State’s cards tonight.

They end their Cinderella season at 1:07 AM in Palo Alto, California, after losing in the Sweet 16 3-1 to the Stanford Cardinal, who will advance to face Texas in the Elite 8.

It was a fantastic season for the Sun Devils. Something is brewing in Tempe. I am positive this team will be back. It will probably be the last time we see most of this core in Sun Devil jerseys. Levinska is a Senior. Mary Shroll, Shannon Shields, and Claire Jeter are all grad students. So, four of the Sun Devils seven starters will be gone. However, JJ Van Niel knows how to win here now. He will likely attack the transfer portal hard to keep this momentum rolling.

NCAA.com’s Michella Chester Names ASU Volleyball Her Team of the Week

 

 

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