The undefeated women’s volleyball team returns home on Friday looking to notch the 900th win of the Mick Haley era. Both Arizona programs in the Pac-12 will visit the Galen Center this weekend: the No. 10 Arizona State Sun Devils come first on Friday night and the No. 14 Wildcats will look to knock off the No. 1 Women of Troy on Sunday.
In his 15th year in charge, head coach Mick Haley is aware of his upcoming milestone, but he said he is not interested in dwelling on it.
“I honestly don’t keep track of this stuff, and I think it’s useless to think about what you’ve done,” Haley said. “We start every week 0-0.”
For the second week in a row, Haley’s undefeated squad finds itself atop the national rankings. With an 18-0 record, the Women of Troy are one of just two unbeaten teams remaining in the nation, the other being No. 9 Kansas, but they are coming off a tough road trip to Colorado and Utah, where the Buffaloes pushed them to five sets in Boulder.
“The road trip was four long days,” Haley said, “[But] if you get wins … on the road in this conference, you’ve done something really special.”
After such a demanding travel schedule last week, the team was excited to be back playing at the Galen Center.
“We play here, we practice here, we basically spend all of our time here,” senior middle blocker Alicia Ogoms said. “We know how the ball moves, and we’re definitely really comfortable at home.”
The Women of Troy will first take on Arizona State. The Sun Devils got off to a flying start to the season, but they lost their first two games last week during their visits to Washington and Washington State. Despite the losses, ASU remained in the top 10 this week with a 15-2 record.
USC last faced off against Arizona State early last season, when the Sun Devils came to the Galen Center and beat the Women of Troy, 1-3. The loss dropped USC out of the top 10, and the team finished the season unranked. This year, the much-improved Women of Troy are determined to grab a win.
“The biggest thing for us is to stay in rhythm and run our system,” Ogoms said. “It’s harder to run your system when you’re on the road, so now we want to get back to doing what made us successful at home.”
Arizona State comes to the Galen Center reeling. During the first of their back-to-back losses in Washington, the Sun Devils lost senior outside hitter Macey Gardner for the rest of the season to a torn ACL, and ASU will undoubtedly miss the program’s all-time kills leader on Friday.
Pac-12 volleyball analyst Holly McPeak shared her thoughts about filling the void for the Sun Devils, who have dropped consecutive sets since Gardner’s injury.
“[ASU will] have to figure out how to put the pieces of the puzzle together without Macey,” McPeak said.
Haley passed along his best wishes to Gardner, having coached her during a trip to China, but he emphasized that ASU is still a formidable opponent.
“I’ve ranked them top two in the country all year,” he said. “They have a good coach in Jason Watson, and he knows how to rally his team, so I’m sure they’ll be ready come Friday.”
After what will undoubtedly be a stiff test against the Sun Devils, USC will take on Arizona. The Wildcats began their season with eight wins on the trot, but they have gone 5-5 since. Their last match was a 3-2 win versus Washington State, but Arizona will have to face off against UCLA in Westwood before taking on the Women of Troy.
Last season, USC traveled to Tucson and clinched NCAA tournament eligibility with a 3-1 victory over the Wildcats.
Arizona leads the conference in defense, but McPeak pointed out that the Wildcats’ main goal will not be to stop senior outside hitter Samantha Bricio, but to try and slow her down.
“No one will ever shut her down,” McPeak said.
As each game goes by, Haley says the team is also preparing and practicing for the long haul.
“It sounds funny, but you play September, October and November to get ready for December,” he said. “We want to be 6-0 in December [at the NCAA tournament]. That’s the name of the game.”
Friday’s match against Arizona State kicks off at 8:00 p.m., and Arizona will play in the Galen Center at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday. Both games will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network.
Jodee Sullivan contributed to this report.