The road back to the NCAA women’s volleyball championship, hosted in Seattle this December, began for the Oregon Ducks volleyball team on Friday. The hard-hitting and quick core of Jim Moore‘s Ducks (1-0) took all three sets from the Eastern Washington Eagles (0-1) — easing off the gas pedal a little after taking the first two sets 25-20 and 25-14, but still rolling to a 28-26 third set win.
Martenne Bettendorf set a strong tone, coming into her sophomore season, as she followed up a 26-kill performance in the Green and Yellow scrimmage with 18 kills in the first game of the season. Bettendorf got seven of those kills early on in the first set, but the game gave way to be closer than the score indicated. Though Bettendorf will go a long way to replacing the kills vacated by Miss Oregon Alaina Bergsma‘s departure, Liz Brenner‘s leadership will be crucial.
The junior four-sport athlete from Jesuit High in Portland got the first set’s last three kills to key a 5-1 Oregon run that turned a 20-19 battle into a 25-20 set win.
“At first, we were trying to figure out what they were doing,” Bettendorf told goducks.com after the match. “We’d never seen them play and hadn’t watched any film on them yet. I think we did a good job figuring it out after the first set.”
The match stayed close through the early part of set two as well, but Oregon put together another run — this time scoring eight straight to go up 22-12. In these first two sets, the Ducks put up some ridiculous hitting numbers compared to their Eagle opponents. Oregon’s .405 and .424 marks were not touched by EWU’s .206 and .156 clips, and the Eagles stayed somewhat close thanks to good blocking and unforced errors by the Ducks (through two sets, the Ducks had seven errors and the Eagles had five blocks).
“We gave ’em nine points in game one, so we give them half of that and it’s 25-14,” coach Moore said after the match.
After the intermission, the Eagles stole a 7-2 lead in set three and it looked like the Cheney, Wash., squad would roll to extend the match. The Ducks tied it up at seven, and from there forward, the teams stayed within three points. After five match points, senior setter Lauren Plum got her 42nd assist on a pass to Brenner for her 13th kill and Oregon’s set- and match-winning point.
Plum’s 42 assists were 40 more than any other Duck, 28 more than any Eagle and 10 more than all Eagles combined. She added 14 digs to lead the team in that category as well — that’s her 28th double-double of her career. If Brenner is the shining star of this Duck team, Plum is the cornerstone on which it’s set.