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Sun Devils Fall Short In Five-Set Battle

Sep 18, 2021

TEMPE, Ariz. - Non-conference play for Sun Devil Volleyball came to an end with a tough loss to the reigning Mountain West champions UNLV in five sets (25-21, 25-21, 24-26, 17-25, 15-11) on Saturday in Desert Financial Arena.

Notable Stats

  • Arizona State (7-4) came back after being down 0-2 in the match to UNLV (9-2) to force a fifth set for the fifth time this season. They are now 2-3 in those matches.
  • Junior outside hitter Iman Isanovic led all players in kills with 23, reaching 20+ kills for the third time this season and fifth time in her career. She has reached double figures in kills for the 12th match in a row (dating back to last season).
  • Junior libero Annika Larson matched her career high with 30 digs tonight, her third time this season and sixth time in her career collecting 20+ digs.
  • Larson and Levinska represented the Sun Devils on the Sparky Volleyball Invitational all-tournament team. 
  • Taking over as the lone setter in the latter half of the match, sophomore Ella Snyder earned a double-double with 38  assists and 15 digs. This was her third double-double of the season and 10th of her career.
  • Sophomore pin hitter Marta Levinska had 16 kills, equaling her season high. This was her ninth time reaching double figures in kills this fall. She also picked up her fifth double-double of the season, ninth of her career, with 10 digs.
  • Leading the team in blocks was sophomore middle blocker Claire Jeter with four. She also added 10 kills, her fifth time this season reaching double figures.
  • Coming off the bench, freshman libero Meadow Cooper made an impact, adding six digs and an ace.
  • Sophomore libero Jinna Zeng made her first collegiate appearance, serving up an ace in the fifth set.

Arizona State Head Coach Sanja Tomasevic

On takeaways from tonight's performance:
"Tough loss for us, but I love the fight, I love the grit, I love that we were able to come back after being down 2-0 against a really good UNLV team loaded with seniors and upperclassmen. But I think there's a lot to look forward to and to build onto. I didn't like our ebbs and flows. When we dip and make it a lot harder for us to come back, we need a little bit more consistency. But I'm really excited about the fight and the grit we showed tonight."

On Junior Libero Annika Larson's performance:
"She was a stud, she was all over the place. One thing about Annika is she just goes for it, she's relentless and that's a really good thing about her. I think we can get a couple more people to do the same thing defensively, but 30 digs is incredible and a really good job by her."  
On adjustments made to force the fifth set
"I think Ella did a good job keeping the hitters in rhythm. Offensive rhythm is important in a game. When you're running a 6-2 as a coach and as a team, you know that there are two different setters that are running two different rhythms. It doesn't matter if it's our offense and we have the same offense for both setters, they're just different setters and different people. So, I think it was easier for those hitters to get used to. So, there's pros and cons for both systems, 5-1 and 6-2, but clearly tonight 5-1 was a good way to go and Ella did a really good job today."

On how Snyder and Levinska found that perfect setting tempo 
"They work really hard, both of them. They want to be good, they work really hard, they communicate well, they're both good players and good people. When somebody is giving them feedback, they take it in and they see it as. When you're young, if you don't get defensive when somebody's coaching you or a teammate is giving you feedback, it helps a lot. Ella is great with that, when somebody is like, 'Hey push it out,' she's like, 'I got it, my bad.' You can tell that she doesn't take it personally, her body language is pretty chill, she's like yep, my bad and she repeats a set and fixes it usually."

Junior Outside Hitter Iman Isanovic
On fifth five set match of the season
"One of my biggest pet peeves is losing in five sets, it's just horrible. But I think we definitely demonstrated how gritty our team is because in the third set we were down 24-21 and we came back and won 26-24. So that demonstrated the character our team really has and I think we really just built on that."

On what helped her succeed and supporting her teammates
"I just give all the credit to my teammates who are so supportive of me. I love knowing they have my back, and even if I make mistakes, they're always going to be there to comfort me. So I truly wasn't thinking about anything else but playing the game we all love. I attribute everything that happened today to them."

On the Pac-12 season beginning next week and the end of non-conference play
"We gained a lot of experience from non-conference play because we played a lot of good teams. We played Nebraska, we played Georgia, who's also a really good team, we played Louisville in five. We as a team didn't necessarily have the most experience coming into this season, but we do have a lot of takeaways. We are definitely confident because we have been practicing, it's just adjusting those little things and when we adjust those things, I think a lot of teams should not underestimate us."

Set One: UNLV 25, Arizona State 21
The Sun Devils started the set off with a two-point run with one kill from Isanovic. After ASU took a 5-3, the two teams went back and forth for the majority of the set, trading leads and tying it up. Later in the set, the Rebels took the lead, forcing the Sun Devils to call a timeout down 20-18. After the timeout, the Sun Devils came out with two kills by Isanovic bringing the score to 22-20. The Sun Devils called one last timeout before the set ended 25-21. 

Set Two: UNLV 25, Arizona State 21
The Sun Devils came out fighting in the second set, keeping the score to a one-point difference. Later, Arizona State took the lead with a kill from Beatrice Badini, making the score 16-15. The Rebels then took the lead 19-17 before a timeout by the Sun Devils. ASU kept fighting, but it wasn't enough as the Rebels won 25-21. The Devils hit .167 in the set.

Set Three: Arizona State 26, UNLV 24
ASU started the third with a strong 3-0 run behind a couple kills from Levinska. The Rebels cut the difference to two to later make it 6-4. Levinksa had five of the first six points for the Sun Devils. The Rebels then took the lead 11-10, but Levinksa evened it up with a kill. UNLV then took the next two points, but the game tied up again with a kill from Claire Jeter and Iman Isanovic making the score 14-14. The Sun Devils later took the lead at 19-17 following two attack errors from the Rebels. After a timeout from UNLV, the Rebels scored four-straight points to make it 21-20 before a timeout from the Sun Devils. Facing match point at 24-21, ASU battled back, scoring six-straight points to win the set, 26-24. Isanovic had two kills in that run to help force a fourth set. Isanovic and Levinska both had 7 kills in the third set alone.

Set Four: Arizona State 25, UNLV 17
To start the set, the Sun Devils took a 4-1 lead. The Rebels scored four in a row, but the Sun Devils still led 7-5. The Sun Devils went on a four-point run with a kill from both Levinska and Isanovic and an ace by Cooper, making the score 13-10. The Sun Devils pushed the lead to 17-13, forcing UNLV to take a timeout. The Sun Devils went on another run, scoring three points from Levinska before the Rebels took another timeout. ASU came out strong from the timeout with Levinksa scoring right away. An attack error from UNLV gave ASU the win, 25-17. The Sun Devils went on a 5-0 run down the stretch to secure the win. 

Set Five: UNLV 15, Arizona State 11
To start the final set, the Rebels went on a 5-0 run, leading the Sun Devils 6-2 before the home team called a timeout. Arizona State finally broke the run by scoring two points in a row. However, the Rebels would push their lead to 11-7, forcing the Sun Devils to take another timeout. Despite getting within two at 12-10, ASU could not complete the comeback and fell 15-11.

Up Next
Conference play begins at home next week for the Sun Devils. ASU will take on in-state rivals Arizona on Thursday before No. 13 Oregon comes to town on Sunday.