The #13 Oregon Ducks volleyball team (12-0, 2-0 Pac-12) continued their unbeaten streak for the season, defeating a stubborn Colorado Buffaloes team in four sets; 33-31, 25-19,21-25, 25-23. Cheering the Ducks on was a loud crowd of 3,551, of which 2,500 were students that brought some timely energy for Oregon.
The start of the match was rocky for the Ducks. Oregon coach Jim Moore called a timeout at 0-4 and 0-6 in his attempts to orient his team, and the Ducks spotted the Buffaloes seven points before scoring any of their own. Down 13-19, Oregon began climbing back into the set as the Ducks started passing better, and were finally able to take the first set, 33-31, off a pair of kills from Martenne Bettendorf.
After digging themselves in a big hole, what was the key to the Oregon turnaround? According to Bettendorf, it was “Cutting down our errors. (Gabby) Simpson (of Colorado) was serving really well. Once we started passing and getting our rhythm back it helped us a lot. We got the confidence that we needed and our energy started getting much higher.”
Coach Moore also noted, “I think that’s what makes us kind of panic: when we’re not passing the ball the way we know we’re capable (of), we start getting real tight and real tense. We’ve got to be better than that.”
Oregon was tight again in the second set, but settled in as both teams battled through five lead changes and seven ties. The Ducks’ dominant attack prevailed, however, behind kills from Frankie Shebby and Kacey Nady, both of whom had five kills for the set. Their kills led the way for Oregon’s .414 attack percent, versus Colorado’s .138.
The Ducks played more evenly in the beginning of the third set, but after tying at 15-15 Oregon lost some composure at the end of the set and wound up dropping it by four points.
After the game, coach Moore said, “I knew they were going to come to play. I knew they would get after it, and they did. Our serve receive has been shaky all week – it’s even been shaky in practice. That’s the most important thing we have, is serve receive, and everyone’s real tentative in serve receive, so that really hurts us”
The decisive fourth set was punctuated by big rallies and hard fought points. Offensively, Liz Brenner put the team on her shoulders, notching seven kills for the set. Defensively, everyone chipped in on the many long rallies, highlighted by perhaps the longest rally of this season – the match point rally that sent Colorado to the locker room for the night. As libero Amanda Benson put it, “This was a lot of hard work, a lot of…long rallies. Colorado played really well.”
It helped that Oregon had a lot of school spirit from the students that showed up. “The students were awesome – there’s no question they were the difference tonight,” said coach Moore.
For Colorado, Taylor Simpson led the way with 18 kills for the game. Nicole Edelman led the setters with 26 assists, and Cierra Simpson’s defense brought 20 digs for the Buffaloes.
The Ducks were led in kills by Liz Brenner with 18, followed by Frankie Shebby with 15 and Martenne Bettendorf’s 13. Brenner also added 19 digs, as she has been more evenly balanced on offense and defense in her new role for the Ducks this season. Amanda Benson led Oregon with 21 digs, and setters Shellsy Ashen and Maggie Scott each put up 27 assists on the night.
Oregon now goes on the road next week, as they’ll play a tough stand in the Bay Area against Cal and #1 Stanford. Coach Moore is quick to remind, however, that all the games are tough and that’s not going to change. “It’s going to be this way every night. Everybody’s good. They’re all going to be close and you’re going to have to execute.”
~ Carl Blackwell
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