Oregon (14-11, 7-8 Pac-12) had a big chance to take a commanding 2-1 set lead over Stanford (19-5, 12-3) in set three, taking the first six points and a 7-1 lead at one point. They had all the energy and momentum coming out of the locker room, and it looked like the upset was on — much like in Palo Alto last Thursday.
But the Ducks gave up five straight points in that third set — only scoring two after taking a 21-18 lead — and the demoralizing set loss was too much to overcome against the No. 6 Cardinal.
“We had three balls and we botched all three of them and we can’t do that against a team that’s that good,” head coach Jim Moore said. “It’s about winning the match, not about winning the set.”
Oregon lost the match 3-1, 15-25—25-20—23-25—15-25.
The Oregon attack was led by the usual suspects, as Liz Brenner and Ariana Williams (15 kills apiece) stole the show, while an even Stanford attack featured five attackers with at least 7 kills. Brenner was her usual vicious self, though in a more efficient form, finishing with a .263 attack percentage and just 5 errors.
Senior setter Lauren Plum had the heavy majority of Oregon’s 51 assists (43) with Brenner all over the court and earning 5 of the remaining 8, in addition to digging out 14 balls for the double double. Plum also put up a double-double with 17 kills and added 3 kills.
But ultimately, the sure-handed Cardinal squashed out the Ducks quite like how their football companions did last Thursday: with a physical defensive front and a plodding slow offense. Though the two teams matched each other in kills, Oregon had 17 more errors and 10.5 less blocks. The blocks up front weren’t necessarily the reason for Oregon’s DFPs (as Williams would explain: “Dumb … wink, wink”), though they certainly didn’t help Oregon’s attempts for a comeback.
“They’re a good blocking team,” Williams said, “but it wasn’t their blocking that held us, it was our side of the net.”
The devil’s in the details and the loss is in the errors here. As the Ducks led 21-20, they made five straight errors and ended up beating themselves … with absolutely no disrespect to their opponents, of course.
“Obviously, they’re very good,” Moore said of Stanford. “I still think they’re the best team in the conference. Very solid.”
With this week’s busy schedule for Duck athletics — Oregon plays two women’s basketball games, two volleyball matches, a men’s basketball game and a football game, all at home this week — the squad returns to action Friday night with another tough opponent in No. 20 Cal. It’s a rough rebound, but it’s one the Ducks sound ready to take. Following this homestand, the Ducks get three matches on the road and the angry Beavers at home, so it doesn’t get much easier.
“We regroup, first play tomorrow night. It’s that simple,” Moore said.