It’s been a long time coming, but the Oregon volleyball team is finally finding an identity and at the best time possible.
With their NCAA tournament chances hanging in the balance, the Ducks defeated then-No. 20 Cal at home and went on the road to defeat Utah and Colorado for its first three-game winning streak since the beginning of September.
In their latest match, the Ducks held off a pesky Colorado team to win in four sets (29-27, 25-21, 20-25, 25-13) and keep their tournament chances alive and looking very solid.
Liz Brenner, Oregon’s All-American outside hitter, continued her strong play of late, noting a match-high 20 kills to go with 13 digs. Martenne Bettendorf held down the opposite side of Brenner by contributing 17 kills, one off her career-high.
Oregon is developing the “swing first” mentality as the offense is relying on setter Lauren Plum, who had a match-high 49 assists, to distribute the ball throughout the team to take advantage of one-on-one attacking situations.
The Ducks used a variety of hitters at the net to keep Colorado off-balance as Brenner led the way with 46 attacks while Bettendorf had 44. Ariana Williams and Canace Finley had 28 and 19 attacks, respectively, while Serena Warner added seven.
Set one was the most thrilling of the match as the Ducks jumped out to a quick 4-0 advantage, but the Buffaloes responded with a 10-5 run to take a one-point lead. The set was close throughout and went past the 25-point score. The Ducks captured the win as consecutive blocks by Williams helped end the match 29-27 in favor of Oregon.
The second set was close in the beginning as neither team pulled away, but with the score tied at seven, the Ducks went on a 10-0 run to take control. Not to be outdone, Colorado responded with a 14-6 run to cut the deficit to two points. Finley and Bettendorf responded for Oregon with consecutive kills to seal the win and take the 2-0 lead.
Not wanting to be swept on its home court, Colorado came out firing on all cylinders to win set three. The Buffaloes used a solid offensive attack while controlling Oregon at the net that led to Colorado out-hitting Oregon .419-.150 and seizing momentum.
The fourth set was the Williams and Finley show. Williams helped Oregon take a 6-5 lead, and Finley helped aid a 12-3 run as the Ducks were up 18-8. Unlike the second set, Oregon never took its foot off the gas pedal, swinging away to come up with the 25-13 win.
Libero Amanda Benson had a match-high 18 digs while Williams and Warner combined for nine blocks.
The Ducks hit the road again on Wednesday to face Washington State in Pullman, Wash., at 7 p.m. They return home to face Oregon State at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29, four hours after the football team kicks off against the Beavers at Autzen Stadium.
Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka