Volleyball opens 2011 season with Sheraton Classic

Click here for a slideshow of photos from the Sparky Alumnae Game (Aaron Valinsky, State Press/Aug. 20, 2011)

Coach Watson Talks About 2011 Season (Aug. 11, 2011)

The Arizona State University volleyball team will launch their 2011 season at home tat home with the ASU Sheraton Classic Tournament, which will be held Aug. 26-27 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz. The schedule for the tournament is as follows:

Friday, August 26th:

• San Jose State vs. UW-Milwaukee @ 4:30 p.m.

• Denver vs. Arizona State @ 7 p.m.

Saturday, August 27th:

• Denver vs. San Jose State @ 10 a.m.

• UW-Milwaukee vs. Arizona State @ 12 p.m.

• UW-Milwaukee vs. Denver @ 5:30 p.m.

• San Jose State vs. Arizona State @ 7:30 p.m.

For complete tournament information, please visit http://thesundevils.cstv.com/sports/w-volley/spec-rel/2011-asu-sheraton-classic.html

Checking out the competition

Denver: This will be the first time the Sun Devils are matched against the Pioneers in team history.

UW-Milwaukee: The face-off against the Panthers will also be a first for the Sun Devils this weekend.

San Jose State: The Sun Devils are 0-2 against the Spartans all-time, having faced them once in 2000 and again in 2007.

New ousts old in alumnae match

Jason Watson's current volleyball squad got the best of past stars with a 26-19, 27-29 and 25-12 win Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Arena.

Former Sun Devil mentor Patti Snyder Park was on hand to coach the alums, which included Jami Coughlin, Sarah Reaves, Sarah Johnson, Paige Mittelstaedt, Courtney Blocher, Cheryl Anglin and Jodi Proctor-Smith.

Familiar faces

Junior Erica Wilson and senior Sonja Markanovich are returning for another stellar season with the Sun Devils. Wilson led the team in blocks with 120 total last season, and Markanovich had the highest blocks per set average with 1.09. Wilson also held the most serve aces with 27. Also returning is sophomore Stephanie Preach, who was second overall in assists for the 2010 season with 117. Sophomore Danica Mendivil will enter her second season at ASU, after having the second-highest number of kills last year with 284 total. Wilson and Mendivil also had the second- and third-highest number of points with 335.5 and 314.5 respectively. Other returners for the Sun Devils are sophomores Bethany Jorgensen, Jenny Teslevich, Alexis Pinson and Ashley Kastl; junior Sofie Schlagintweit; and senior Malia Bachynski.

Ans some fresh ones as well

The Sun Devils welcome six freshmen, two sophomore transfers and one junior transfer in the 19th-best recruiting class in the country, and the sixth-best class in the Pac-12 Conference. The team gained a new setter in sophomore Sarah McGaffin, who transferred from Metro State College in Denver, Colo. McGaffin contributes more speed and a great ability to distribute the ball around the court. Also transferring in is libero sophomore Caitlyn Murphy (University of California) and junior Sarah Clause (Long Beach State). The freshman recruiting class includes Jordy Checkal (San Diego, Calif.), Shannan McCready (Aiea, Hawaii), Nora Tuioti-Mariner (Corona, Calif.), redshirt Kylee Terhune (Albuquerque, NM), redshirt Julia Katolik (New Philadelphia, Greece), and redshirt Katie Fontes (Rocklin, Calif.).

Watson back for fourth season

Head Coach Jason Watson will be entering his fourth season with the Sun Devils. His record at Arizona State stands at 39-53, a .424 percentage. Watson previously coached for three seasons at BYU, where he held a 74-18 record (.804).

Conference-heavy schedule

With the expansion of the Pac-12 Conference, the Sun Devils face a new challenge: playing 22 conference matches, compared to 18 in past seasons. This also shortens the number of preseason matches, meaning less time to prepare for conference play. 

Ranked opponents

Another challenge facing the Sun Devils this season is the tough opponents they will face. Six opposing teams have been ranked in the AVCA Coaches Preseason Poll, four of which ASU will face more than once: USC (2nd), California (3rd), Stanford (6th), Washington (7th), Iowa State (18th), and San Diego (20th). Although USC and Cal were picked to finish first and second respectively in the conference this season, ASU beat both USC and California last year.

Recap from last season

The Sun Devils finished 13-18 overall and 7-11 in Pac-10 play in 2010. Team leaders Sarah Reaves and Sarah Johnson graduated after four spectacular seasons. Junior Cat Highmark underwent knee surgery in January and announced in May she would not be returning for her senior season in 2011. 

A brainy tradition

The 2010 team earned the AVCA Team Academic Award at the end of the season as well, with five members of the team receiving Pac-10 All-Academic recognition. This extended the 14-year streak of at least one Sun Devil volleyball player being honored on the All-Academic team.