ASU Volleyball: 2017 Pac-12 Conference Preview

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 09: Arizona State Sun Devils mascot Sparky the Sun Devil performs during the team's quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament against the Oregon Ducks T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Oregon won 80-57. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 09: Arizona State Sun Devils mascot Sparky the Sun Devil performs during the team's quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament against the Oregon Ducks T-Mobile Arena on March 9, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Oregon won 80-57. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Trevor Booth, Carson Field, and Bo Wilkinson preview ASU volleyball’s Pac-12 schedule, as well as the challenges and keys to success for the 2017 season.

The Pac-12 is one of the best conferences in collegiate volleyball, as it tied for the most teams in the NCAA Tournament from any conference last season.

ASU’s conference schedule is quite daunting, and the Sun Devils will have to do a lot of things right if they want to improve on last season’s record.

Keys to ASU’s success:

Increased playing time for Dobmeier

Setter Shelbie Dobmeier has been terrific when she has played this season, averaging 12.04 assists per set, which is currently the best in the Pac-12. However, she has not been the only setter to get full playing time, as Nicole Peterson and Callie Jones have seen increased reps in the past couple of tournaments.

Not only has Dobmeier’s performance been the best on the team, but also the best in the entire conference. She is only a freshman, but she has already made her presence known as a leader on this young team.

ASU and head coach Sanja Tomasevic need to increase Dobmeier’s playing time with conference play looming. She is the tallest of the team’s setters, and she can make the biggest impacts against conference opponents.

Reduced errors

For ASU to have a solid season in Pac-12 play, they have to decrease the amount of unforced errors they record. The team has the most errors in the conference with 216, and ASU is the only team in the conference to eclipse 200 errors.

The amount of errors the Sun Devils have committed has contributed to the .262 hitting percentage ASU has posted, which is ninth in the Pac-12.

The Devils had a really efficient start of the season at home in the Sun Devil Classic, but the errors began to increase in the Gonzaga Invitational when the Sun Devils lost two out of three games.

If the Sun Devils want to improve upon last season, they must cut out some of their careless mistakes. Teams like Stanford, Washington and UCLA will take advantage of the sloppy play and expose ASU if the Devils do not decrease the number of errors.

Sweeps of lesser Pac-12 opponents

While there are certainly no easy matches in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils need to take care of business against some of the non-power teams in conference play and get sweeps.

There are certainly not bad teams in the Pac-12, so it will not be easy to sweep any opponent, but it may be necessary if ASU wants a chance to make the NCAA Tournament.

The best chances for the Sun Devils to sweep are likely Oregon State and Arizona, who are both near the bottom of the conference.

Last year, of the teams they played two games against, ASU only swept California, who finished dead last in the conference last season.

Leadership from the seniors

The Sun Devils are one of the youngest squads in the Pac-12, coming into the season with 10 new players, so the senior leadership will be pivotal to the team’s success. The team has four seniors on the roster: Halle Harker, Oluoma Okaro, Isabel Miller and Blair Robalin.

Harker and Okaro, in particular, are big playmakers, and their contributions show up on the stat sheet. Okaro leads the team in kills with 198 and Harker is third in program history with 1,633 digs.

While Okaro and Harker get much more playing time than Miller and Robalin, all of the seniors will need to contribute with the team chemistry. The four seniors can help some of the less experienced players keep their heads up and stay motivated.

If the four of them can boost the team morale and encourage their teammates while playing at a high level, ASU has a chance to win more games than expected, as the Sun Devils were picked to finish last in the Pac-12 in the preseason.

For Sun Devil Volleyball fans, the following could easily be gone without saying: The Pac-12 is very, very good.

In a conference that sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, including the defending national champions, the “new-look” Sun Devils won’t have an easy route to rewriting the script of last season’s 5-15 record in conference play.

After starting off this year’s non-conference slate with a 10-2 record, first year head coach Sanja Tomasevic and her young team know that their challenges ahead will be far superior in arguably the strongest conference in college volleyball.

The Pac-12 opened the year with six teams ranked in the AVCA top-25, with seven All-Americans and fourteen All-Conference athletes returning to to their schools this season.

As the Sun Devils take the court for their first two conference matchups this week, here’s a quick preview of the teams that will pose some of the greatest threats for the team this season.


After being bested in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament last season, the two-time defending Pac-12 champions return all six of their starters for a team poised to achieve more than just conference supremacy.

The Huskies are lead by reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year and AVCA First Team All-American Courtney Schwan, who led or shared the team lead in kills per match 21 times last season while achieving a 3.71 kill per set ratio.

Schwan’s talents are joined by those of Crissy Jones and Bailey Tanner, two seniors that received AVCA Second Team All-American honors last year, along with senior transfer Marion Hazelwood, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker that received All-American honors three times at Oklahoma.

During their non-conference schedule, the seventh-ranked Huskies dropped only one match against then ninth-ranked Creighton, and only one more set against Missouri State as they cruised to a dominant 10-1 record.

Since head coach Keegan Cook took the reigns in Seattle two years ago, the Huskies have accumulated a 60-8 overall record, along with a conference-best 34-6 slate over the two-year span.

The Sun Devils get the Huskies at home this Sunday, a match that will truly test themselves against a national frontrunner.


After capping off their seventh national championship in program history last season, the Cardinal return a heavy favorite to reach to the Final Four and national championship picture once again.

Coming off a year where she earned recognition as an AVCA First-Team All-American as well as Freshman of the Year for both AVCA and the Pac-12, sophomore outside hitter Kathryn Plummer leads the charge for a young team that returns five starters from last season.

Plummer is joined by senior Merete Lutz, a three-time All-American, as well as honorable mention All-Americans Audriana Fitzmorris, Jenna Gray, and Morgan Hentz.

In their championship run last season, the Cardinal utilized the youngest Final Four team in women’s volleyball history to ride a 10-match winning streak to end the season.

Aside from two losses to second-ranked Penn State, the Cardinal shredded their opponents in non-conference play, winning every single set in all seven of their victories.

Following the retirement of head coach John Dunning last season, Stanford also introduces a new head coach in Kevin Hambly, who led the University of Illinois to the NCAA title match in 2011.

The Cardinal have long established a culture of excellence in collegiate volleyball, being ranked in every poll since the inception of the AVCA in 1982.

As the Sun Devils prepare for a rebuild of their team with youth and new coaching, it’s likely that they’ll continue to face a young yet dominant Stanford team for years to come.


Much like Washington, the Bruins of UCLA are also looking to avenge their loss in the Elite Eight from last season.

Currently at 11th in the national rankings, the Bruins return senior All-American Reily Buechler, who led UCLA in kills (428) and points per set last season (3.78). Buechler also added 21 aces on the year to go along with 10 double-double contests on the year.

The Bruins also welcome Loyola-Maramount transfer Sarah Sponcil, a well-rounded athlete that can fill in at both setter and outside hitter. Sponcil was an honorable mention All-American the past two seasons, and has already made her mark in Pac-12 play with a 58-assist match against Hawaii.

So far, the Bruins have fared well in non-conference play, going 7-2 with both of their losses coming  on the road against the reigning one-seed in 2016, Nebraska.

Head coach Michael Sealy is entering his eighth season as head coach of the Bruins, boasting a 164-65 overall record with a national title victory back in 2011.

Ironically enough, Sealy was the head coach of the Bruin volleyball team that defeated Kevin Hambly’s Fighting Illini in the championship game.

Although the Bruins lost their star libero, Taylor Formico, and honorable mention All-Americans Jordan Frager and Jordan Anderson, the Bruins have filled in their holes in their lineups quickly with players that have shown experience and poise going into conference play.

The Sun Devils will get an early crack against the Bruins at home on October 6, with a late-season matchup back in the Pauley Pavilion on November 4.

Pac-12 Power Rankings

Non-conference play is already coming to a close, which means while some teams are looking very impressive other are not quite living up to the preseason hype around them. Let’s take a look now Pac-12 Power Rankings as we wrap up non conference play.

1. #4 Stanford (7-2)

Stanford is looking very strong early on in their quest for back-to-back National Championships. Stanford returns five starters from the team last year, which makes them heavy favorites to win the Pac-12 and make a deep tournament run once again.

2. #7 Washington (10-1)

The Huskies are looking to do more than three peat as Pac-12 Champions this year. Washington looked very good in non conference play only losing four sets in 11 matches. Don’t be surprised if by the end of the year Washington over takes Stanford for that number one spot in the power rankings.

3. #8 Oregon (8-1)

Oregon is the only team with a Pac-12 win so far this season after sweeping Oregon State on Tuesday night. Oregon has looked very strong in non conference under the helm of first year head coach Matt Ulmer. The only stain to the Ducks resume is a 4 set loss to then No. 1 Texas.

4. #11 UCLA (7-2)

UCLA has looked very good throughout the year besides being swept in back to back matches by No. 12 Nebraska. Freshman outside hitter Mac May leads the team in kills going into conference play and she keeps it up she could make the Bruins a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12.

5. #16 Utah (9-2)

The Utes are another one of those teams that are in the middle of the Pac-12 right now but could easily vault up the rankings. The Utes took a bit of a hit in the standings when they lost to then No. 14 BYU in five sets. We will have to see if they can rally around Adora Anea after losing their last big test of the non conference schedule.

6. #21 USC (8-3)

After starting 3-0 USC lost two of their next three to first Northern Iowa in the USC/LMU tournament and then to Kentucky in the Bluejay Invitational. Since losing those two games USC has gone 4-1 to finish up non conference play. We will really see what this team is made of when they are challenged in a very difficult Pac-12 schedule.

7. #25 Colorado (10-1)

Colorado has surprised a lot of people with their 10-1 start, which was good enough to vault them into the top 25 after being unranked in the preseason. Their only loss comes at the hands of the then ranked #3 Penn State. Colorado is led by junior Alexa Smith who was just named VolleyMob National Player of the Week and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.

8. Washington State (11-1)

Washington State is another surprise team just like Colorado who has looked loads better than a lot of people expected. The only blemish for Washington State is a four set loss to Baylor in the Cougar Challenge Tournament. The Cougars are coming off of a clean sweep in the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational where Taylor Mims was named MVP.

9. Arizona State (10-2)

The Sun Devils started out the season 4-0 before struggling at the Gonzaga Invitational losing back-to-back games. Since then the Devils are on a six game winning streak. This young team ASU team has had to turn to the senior leadership of Oluoma Okaro and Halle Harker. Just this last week Harker moved into third place in school history with 1633 digs.

10. Cal (9-2)

After starting the seasons 0-2 the Cal Bears have turned things around and are off to the team’s best start in six years after going on a nine game winning streak. Cal is lead by Senior Antzela Dempi; if Dempi keeps up this high level of play she could find herself on an All-Pac-12 team.

11. Arizona (6-3)

The University of Arizona has had a very disappointing start to the season after being ranked in the preseason top 25. Arizona is fresh off of getting swept by Illinois State, which is not the non conference finale you hope to see from a team who looked to be turning things around.

Next: ASU Volleyball: Sun Devils go 3-0 in Maverick Classic

12. Oregon State (10-3)

Oregon State is coming off of loss to rival Oregon to kick of Pac-12 play, which is why they are behind Arizona in the power rankings. After starting 6-0 the Beavers lost three of the next seven. The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for Oregon State as they ranked opponents in their next three matches.