Volleyball Returns Home To Face Rival #22 Arizona Wildcats
Sept. 22, 2003
The Arizona State Volleyball team returns home after its longest road trip of the year this Friday to host rival Arizona. The Sun Devils and Wildcats will meet at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26 in Wells Fargo Arena. ASU has not played at home since hosting the Sun Devil Volleyball Classic to open the 2003 season (Aug. 29-30) and enters the rivalry match with a 5-6 record overall. The Devils are coming off a tough road trip to open the Pac-10 season in which they endured a pair of losses to Washington (#14) and Washington State. ASU's schedule won't get any easier as well, with the next five matches against nationally ranked opponents.
Friday's 7 p.m. match against rival Arizona will be broadcast live by AZ-TV. The game can be viewed locally on Cox Cable 13 or Channel 27 with an antenna across the state of Arizona. The Arizona match will be the first of two scheduled matches on AZ-TV in 2003, with the Nov. 7 contest with nationally ranked UCLA also to appear on AZ-TV. George Allen and Doug Gerlach will call all the action from courtside at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Desert Showdown:
ASU leads the all-time series with its rivals to the South, 34-30 (according to ASU records). The Wildcats have held the upper hand in the series as of late though, winning 11 of the last 14 matches. The Sun Devils and Wildcats split the season series last year with each team winning at home in straight sets. The Sun Devils swept Arizona at home last year by scores of 33-31, 30-26, 42-40 on Sept. 27, 2002. It marked ASU's third win against a ranked opponent in 2002 and the 500th victory in ASU Volleyball history. The victory snapped an overall five-match losing streak to the Wildcats and was ASU's first win at home against UA since 1996. The last time ASU swept Arizona was Sept. 30, 1994. Junior outside hitter Juliana Escobar had 20 kills and 16 digs in the match to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week honors.
A Tough Road Ahead:
The Pac-10 currently has six teams ranked in the top 25, and ASU is currently in a stretch where they will face all six in a seven match span. The Devils went 0-2 on the road at No. 14 Washington and Washington State last weekend and return home this Friday against Arizona (#22). ASU will then host Stanford (#4) and California (#11) Oct. 2-3 and take to the road to face defending national champion USC (#1) and UCLA (#8) on Oct. 10-11.
Recapping Last Weekend:
The Sun Devils are coming off a rough weekend in which they were swept on the road by the Washington schools for the first time since 1997. ASU came out hot against No. 14 Washington with a 30-18 win in he opening set, but the Huskies came back to defeat the Devils in four games (18-30, 30-19, 30-26, 30-19). Natalie Harris led the Devils with 20 kills. After a tough travel day, ASU surrendered a tough three-game match to the Washington State Cougars at hostile Bohler Gym (25-30, 31-33, 34-36). Sophomore Sarah Watkins led ASU with a career-high 15 kills and four blocks.
Birthday Week For the Sun Devils:
Three Sun Devils will all celebrate birthdays this week and ironically all come on Wednesday, Sept. 24. Senior outside hitter Juliana Escobar and junior outside hitter Natalie Harris both turn 22. Freshman outside hitter Nicole Morton turns 18.
Blocher Looking For 1,000:
Senior libero Courtney Blocher will make history during the Arizona match when she records her 1,000th career dig. Blocher, a three-year starter for the Sun Devils, needs just one more dig to reach the milestone to become only the 13th player in Sun Devil Volleyball history to reach 1,000 digs in a career. Current assistant coaches Jami Coughlin (1,528) and Terri Cox (1,382) are second and third respectively in ASU's career record books.
The 1,000 Dig Club:
1. Christy Nore (1985-88) 1,5972. Jami Coughlin (1998-01) 1,5283. Terri Cox (1994-97) 1,3824. Mindy Gowell (1987-91) 1,3655. Leanne Schuster (1991-94) 1,2846. Christine Garner (1992-95) 1,2537. Nancy Christian (1990-93) 1,2218. Kelly Plaisted (1987-90) 1,1949. Tammy Webb (1983-86) 1,17810. Tracey Barberie (1984-87) 1,10411. Amanda Burbridge (1997-00) 1,06012. Noelle Fridrich (1986-89) 1,05013. Courtney Blocher (2000-P) 999
Watkins Inks Name In Record Books:
Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Watkins etched her name in the ASU record books with a memorable serving performance in the season-opening 3-1 victory over Utah. Watkins, one of ASU's starting outside hitters who played sparingly as a freshman in 2002, recorded seven aces to rank tied for third in the single-match record books. The last Sun Devil to record seven aces in a single match was All-American outside hitter Amanda Burbridge against Minnesota in the 2000 NCAA Tournament (12/2/00). Watkins has been one of ASU's most consistent players through the first 11 matches of the year, averaging 2.49 kills per game and has recorded 10 or more kills six times. She set career highs against Washington State with 15 kills (.375) and 4.0 blocks.
Stephens Fourth in Pac-10 In Hitting Percentage:
Senior middle blocker Mandy Stephens (Napa, Calif.) was named the tournament MVP of the SMU Radisson Volleyball classic held Sept. 12-13 in Dallas, Texas. Stephens averaged 3.00 kills per game and did not make a hitting error on 46 attacks (.587%). She recorded one of the best matches of her career in the three-game win over SMU (9/13) when she tallied 10 kills (.625 attack percentage) and a career-high six blocks. For the season, Stephens is averaging 2.41 kills per game and leads ASU with 0.95 blocks per game. In her last six matches, Stephens has recorded eight or more kills in each match and is averaging 2.85 kills per game. She had a string of four consecutive error-free matches snapped when she had three hitting errors against Washington State (9/19). For the season she leads the team and fourth in the Pac-10 while hitting .432.
Escobar Earns All-Tournament Trifecta:
Senior outside hitter Juliana Escobar (Brasilia, Brazil) was named to the all-tournament team in each of ASU's three non-conference tournaments. Through ASU's first 11 matches, Escobar is averaging 3.66 kpg and 3.47 digs per game. She has recorded 10 or more kills in eight matches and has six double-doubles to her credit. For her career, Escobar has recorded 559 kills (4.11 kpg) and 461 digs (3.39 dpg) while tallying 22 double-doubles.
A Career Day and Year For Harris:
Redshirt junior outside hitter Natalie Harris likes to set career highs in bunches. In 2002, Harris recorded a career best performance against UCLA (11/21/02) when she tallied 22 kills and 17 digs. Harris tied her career high with 17 digs against Tennessee and set a new high with 24 kills. She also had 27.5 points and four total blocks vs. the Lady Vols. For the season, Harris leads ASU averaging 4.18 kills per game and is third on the team with 2.58 digs per game. She has nine matches with 10 or more kills and has recorded five double-doubles. Harris made the all-tournament team at the SBC/Sand Regency Volleyball Classic in Reno, Nev.
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