ASU Prevails In Five Games Over Cincinnati In NCAA First Round

Dec. 6, 2002

LINCOLN, Neb. ( -- Junior outside hitter Juliana Escobar recorded 23 kills and 26 digs and senior middle blocker Julia Leddyhad 22 kills on a .500 attack percentage to lead the Arizona State SunDevil Volleyball team to a 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats Fridaynight in first-round action of the 2002 NCAA Volleyball Tournament inLincoln, Neb. Game scores were 35-33, 30-20, 27-30, 19-30, 15-10 in favorof the Sun Devils.

Arizona State will face national No. 3-seed Nebraska at 7 p.m. Saturdaynight at NU Coliseum in the second round of the tournament. The Huskerswere a three-game winner over Tennessee-Martin in the second match Fridaynight.

In a match that perfectly characterized Arizona State's entire 2002 season,the Sun Devils prevailed for the seventh time in eight tries this year in afive-game match. Jumping ahead 2-0 to start the match, ASU lost the nexttwo games to force the fifth game, and then advanced to the second round ofthe NCAA Tournament for the second time in as many trips with a 15-10 winin game five. The Sun Devils, who entered the tournament with the leastnumber of wins among the 64-team field by way of a rugged Pac-10 slate,improved to 15-11 overall. Cincinnati finished its season with a 23-9 mark.ASU is now 7-13 in its 14 trips to the NCAA Tournament.

'This was exactly the way our season has gone, up and down,' said ASU headcoach Patti Snyder-Park who is in her 14th and final season as ASU's headcoach. ' It's your typical NCAA, five-game thriller. We knew our match withCincinnati would be fairly close. They're a good team. We have similarstrengths and similar weaknesses. I think we're pretty lucky tonight, butI'll take it. We came out hard in game five, and I think that's a testamentto Julia Leddy and Juliana Escobar -- especially to Leddy. She wants theball. I was very proud of Leddy and Escobar tonight, as well as our wholeteam. We didn't give up.'

Escobar (Brasilia, Brazil) was ASU's go-to weapon when it counted, notchingher second 20-20 match of the year and her 16th double-double in 2002.Playing in her first postseason match after earning the AVCA Junior CollegePlayer of the Year honor last year at Barton County CC, Escobar tied acareer-high with 26 digs and led all players with 27 total points. Shemoved up to 16th in the ASU single-season record books now with 405 killsand with two more service aces has 49 on the year to rank fifth in the ASUrecord books.

'We have that confidence heading into game five that we can't reallyexplain,' said Escobar, who became ASU's 11th player to earn All-Pac-10first team honors. 'We stay together as a team and fight to the end.'

Leddy (Mesa, Ariz.) continued her impressive play by tying her season highwith 22 kills and was one off her career high with 22 Friday night vs. theBearcats. With a .500 (22-3-38) attack percentage she improved her seasonmark to an ASU all-time best .369 on the year. The senior captain alsoadded three digs and three total blocks.

'We have that confidence heading into game five that we can't really explain. We stay together as a team and fight to the end.'

'It's that five-game karma that kind of just gives us the boost we need,'said Leddy about ASU's 7-1 record in five-game matches this year. 'We wereup and down, but we stayed with it and played well in that fifth game. I amexcited to be playing Nebraska. We've played USC and Stanford each twicethis year, and they're right up there with Nebraska.'

In addition to the solid matches from Leddy and Escobar, the Devils hadfive total players with 10 or more kills for only the second time thisyear. Junior outside hitter Kim Mehlhorn (Tempe, Ariz.) continued alate-season hot streak with a season-high 17 kills and matched her careerhigh with 19 digs for her fifth double-double of the year. Redshirtsophomore Natalie Harris (Tempe, Ariz.) also continued her solid play with16 kills and now has an average of 13.8 kills in the last five matches(3.63 kpg average). Not to be out-done were the 11 kills from junior middleblocker Jodi Smith (St. Johns, Ariz.), nine of which came in ASU's threegame wins.

'You have to tip your hat to Arizona State, they played well and they'rewell coached. (Juliana) Escobar and (Julia) Leddy pretty much killed ustonight,' commented Cincinnati head coach Reed Sunahara.

Escobar led the Devils with 26 digs, but ASU also received solid defensefrom junior Courtney Blocher (Scottsdale, Ariz.) with 14 digs and 20 digsfrom senior libero Brittany Arnett (Mesa, Ariz.). Junior setter CherylAnglin (Queen Creek, Ariz.) recorded a match-high 70 assists for her fifthcareer match of 70 or more assists. The 70-assist performance is tied forthe 12th best in ASU single-match history. Anglin, who is second in thecareer record books with 3,537, now owns the second (84), fifth (77), sixth(76) and 12th (70) best assist performance in ASU history. She also addedas season-high 19 digs for her fifth double-double (assists/digs) of the year.

The Devils trailed nearly the entire first game to the Bearcats, but heldtough by pulling to within one point seven times before finally tying thematch at 20-20. ASU gained its first lead of the game at 25-24 and thenbattled through three Cincinnati game points to pull off the 35-33 win.Trailing 32-32, the Sun Devils rallied to score the next three points andcapped the win with a double block by Harris and Smith. Leddy and Harrisled the Devils each with seven kills in the opening frame, followed by thefive from Escobar.

The second game featured a complete reversal of fortunes, as it was the SunDevils this time that took the commanding lead. But unlike the Bearcats ingame one, ASU wouldn't let up en route to the win. Never trailing in thegame and only tied twice early in the second frame, the Devils gained adecisive 30-20 win to go into the intermission up two games to none. Led byeight more kills from Leddy and six from Mehlhorn, the Devils hit ascorching .408 (23-3-49) with only three hitting errors.

After falling down early 22-12, the Sun Devils wouldn't quit and nearlypulled even before falling 30-27 in the third game. With a 10-point Bearcatlead, Snyder-Park called a timeout and then watcher her team go on a 7-0run to pull to within three points at 22-19. ASU came within one point fourtimes at 22-23, 24-25, 26-27 and 27-28, but couldn't gain the equalizerbefore Cincinnati pulled out the 30-27 victory. Harris led ASU with sixkills in the game.

The fourth game was much like the third game, only ASU did not post acomeback. The Bearcats tied the match at two game apiece. Trailing onlyonce in the game at 1-0, Cincinnati used a balanced attack and a dismal ASU-.022 hitting percentage by the Sun Devils to win the game. Escobar hadfour kills to lead ASU and put her over the 20-kill mark for the match.

Much like they have all season long, the Devils faced a deciding fifth timeand for the seventh time in eight tries, they were successful in victory.Rebounding to hit .435 in the game, the middle blocker combination of Smithand Leddy combined for eight kills (four each) to lead the Devils to a15-10 victory-clinching win.

                1       2       3       4       5ASU (15-11)     35      30      27      19      15CIN (23-9)      33      20      30      30      10ASU Statistical Leaders:KILLS: Escobar (23), Leddy (22), Mehlhorn (17), Harris (16), Smith (11)ASSISTS: Anglin (70), Habiger (8)TOTAL BLOCKS: Leddy (3), Mehlhorn (3)SERVICE ACES: Escobar (2)DIGS: Escobar (26), Arnett (20), Anglin (19), Blocher (14)ATTENDANCE: 1,672

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