2021 Sand Devils Season Preview
TEMPE, Ariz. – It has been a long time coming and it is finally here. Sun Devil Beach Volleyball is kicking off the season this week and is looking to build off of last season with record-breaking returners and nine newcomers.
2021 Schedule Outlook
The 2021 schedule features six teams ranked in the AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll, including 2019 NCAA National Champion UCLA and runner-up USC. The season will begin on Friday, February 26, in Phoenix with the Canyon Classic, starting with a matchup against Colorado Mesa followed by a game against No. 7 Grand Canyon.
While last season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sand Devils managed to keep some of the momentum from their 2019 record-breaking season. Before the season was cut short, the team was ranked in the AVCA top 20 for three different weeks. In Brad Keenan's fourth season as the head coach, the team did not lose to an unranked team, continuing a trend from the 2019 season. With a 4-6 record, the team recorded two sweeps against Boise State and Utah.
Three Sand Devils remain in the top 10 for individual wins. Fifth-year senior Katelyn Carballo ranks third with 56 wins. Coming in at No. 6 is senior Samantha Plaster (47), followed by senior Cierra Flood with 39 in ninth.
Carballo and Plaster also are in the top three in career pair wins with former Sun Devils, Carballo in third and Plaster in first.
In addition to the three mentioned above, 10 additional players are returning for another season. With extended eligibility due to the pandemic, Carballo will return for the 2021 season as a graduate student. She is one of five in the senior class that also includes transfer Aleksandra Sochacka.
Sophomore Lexi Sweeney went 6-4 in 2020, the best individual record last season. Pairs that earned a 3-5 record last season include Carballo and Plaster, as well as junior Emily Anderson and sophomore Sarah Waters. Individually, Flood earned five wins and junior Maddy Salazar earned four. Junior Lauren Weintraub competed in 2020 as well, pairing up with Flood five times.
Eight freshmen and one senior join the 2021 roster. All come from impressive backgrounds, including Taryn Ames, an Arizona native who led Desert Vista to its first beach volleyball state title in 2019, and Ivey Weber, who was named one of the top 25 beach volleyball players in Texas.
As with most beach volleyball student-athletes, many newcomers have experience playing indoor volleyball as well. Senior transfer Sochacka comes to Tempe from American University, where she played indoor. Additionally, Maia Nichols helped her high school's indoor team to a state championship when she was a sophomore.