Amanda Benson

Oregon Ducks Volleyball Loses In 5-Set Heartbreaker to Nebraska

Last Friday, the Oregon Ducks were swept by Florida, who was the better team. On Saturday they had a chance to make a statement of their own and started out taking the first two sets against the number four team in the country in Nebraska. However, the tide changed after the intermission and Oregon fell, […]

Oregon Ducks Volleyball Loses In 5-Set Heartbreaker to Nebraska – Autzen Zoo – Autzen Zoo – An Oregon Ducks Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and more.

As Oregon volleyball falls in Sweet 16, its rising stars emerge

Oregon volleyball ended its season Friday in Minneapolis with a four-set loss to No. 7 North Carolina in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.

The Ducks played well enough to win but were unable to close out the early sets. The Tar Heels, who rank second in the nation in blocks per set (3.23), jumped out to a 2-0 advantage before Oregon could muster a comeback and ultimately emerged victorious 25-23, 25-22, 23-25, 25-16.

Just as it has been all season, the fourth set was Oregon’s achilles heel against North Carolina. Overall, the Ducks defeated their opponents by an average of 2.63 points per set in sets one, two, three and five. But, they were outscored by .31 in set four, which they won only half of the time.

“We fought hard, we passed, we played well in the first three sets,” Jim Moore said. “Statistically we were in front after the first three, but it’s not about the stats, it’s about the points.”

Liz Brenner posted six kills and 12 digs in her final match, good for second in Oregon history in career points (1,775.5), third in kills (1,617) and 10th in digs (1,140). She finished her legendary Oregon career with a 91-26 record.

“I loved my career at Oregon,” Brenner said. “I could not have asked for better coaches, team and staff.” Brenner is one of five seniors graduating from the program this season, alongside setter Shellsy Ashen, defensive specialist Natalie Bookout Gonzalez, and middle blockers Allie Rogers and Serena Warner.

All in all the Ducks (23-10) finished tied for fourth in the Pac-12 with an 11-9 conference record and a No. 16 nationwide ranking. Two-seed Texas defeated North Carolina in the quarterfinals and will meet unseeded BYU, the shocker of the tournament, on Dec. 18 in the Final Four. No. 1 Stanford, with the only Pac-12 run deeper than that of Oregon, advances to a Dec. 18 semifinal against five-seed Penn State.

The Ducks have established themselves as a consistent powerhouse both in the Pac-12 and country, qualifying for the national tournament in eight of ten years under Moore. Oregon will return plenty of talent its 2015 campaign, in which Martenne Bettendorf looks to extend her offensive reign. Bettendorf led the team in points (489.5) kills (440) and kills per set (3.52) and maintained a hitting percentage of .309 in 2014.

Warner and sophomore Kacey Nady also turned in dynamic statistical seasons, ranking first and second on the team with 133 (10th in Pac-12) and 93 total blocks respectively; Bettendorf finished third with 91. Both middle blockers cracked the top ten in Pac-12 hitting percentage, with Warner finishing fourth (.365) and Nady in 10th (.335).

Sophomore Amanda Benson, who spent the summer after her freshman year in China as a Pac-12 all-star, not only led the program in digs (548) but finished fourth in the Pac-12 with 4.39 digs per set.

Freshmen Maggie Scott, Frankie Shebby and Taylor Agost each made significant contributions to the Ducks’ success in 2014 and will play key roles on the team in years to come. Scott, who would “rather eat glass than lose,” led all Pac-12 freshmen with a team-leading 6.65 kills per set. Outside hitter Shebby put up 293 kills per set, third on the team only to veterans Bettendorf and Brenner, while middle blocker Agost, who battled injuries all season, came on strong with 50 kills in her last seven games.

A young team loaded with firepower, Oregon still has sufficient room for improvement from its memorable 2014 season. With the rise of Bettendorf and the development of Benson, Agost and their eight other returning members, the Ducks can and should build off this year’s success with yet another deep run and shot at the Pac-12 title in 2015.

Follow Kenny Jacoby on Twitter @kennyjacoby

Oregon volleyball opens the NCAA Tournament as the No. 10 seed

A week and a half ago, the Oregon volleyball team looked to be in prime position to be selected as one of the top-16 seeds of the upcoming NCAA tournament. One of the major benefits to being nominated as a top-16 team is that the team would be able to stay at home for the first two rounds as a host-site.

The Ducks were riding high, in the midst of a three-game winning streak, all over ranked opponents, before that came crashing down as Oregon lost its final two games. Those losses to No. 23 Utah and unranked Oregon State to end the regular season put Oregon’s shot as a top-16 seed in grave jeopardy.

“I mean I know shouldn’t (have doubted us hosting) because I was pretty sure that was it (after USC),” Moore said. “This is such a strange activity that we do, that your whole existence occurs at the end of something you do and you’re absolutely flying high or you’re just miserable.”

Luckily for the Ducks, the NCAA selection committee looked at their overall body of work and believed Oregon to be more than deserving of a host team. On Sunday evening, the Ducks found out that they were selected as the No. 10 seed, the highest ranking they’ve received all year, and would play host to Santa Clara, LSU and Oklahoma.

“The two losses (to end the season) kind of put a damper on things, but then getting ranked tenth in the NCAA Tournament, I think that’s huge,” senior Liz Brenner said. “That was the highest we’ve been ranked all year so I think we’re feeling good and ready to go.”

Oregon’s “body of work” was among one of the best in the nation as the Ducks had a rating percentage index ranking of No. 10 in the nation. The RPI is a computerized ranking that combines a team’s wins, losses and strength of schedule to determine where they rank in the nation.

Out of the Ducks’ 30 matches on the season, 15 of them came against nationally ranked opponents, while another two of them came against squads who were receiving votes for the rankings. Oregon had arguably one of the tougher second halves of any team when it played 12 out of its final 15 matches against ranked opponents, including No. 1 Stanford once and No. 3 Washington twice.

“I think our season turned on the (first) loss against Stanford,” Moore said. “We did many things wrong after that, we just panicked – to scramble through it and finish where we finished and to get the 11 wins, I think that was huge.”

For Brenner – arguably the most influential player in the history of Oregon volleyball – this is her last chance to win a national championship. She has been to the NCAA Tournament the past three years, being a part of Oregon’s 2012 run to the national championship, but Moore believes that if the Ducks are going to return to the national championship, it’s going to start and end with Brenner.

“She’s got to pass, play defense and lead – but the biggest key for her is to lead,” Moore said of Brenner. “At Hawaii, we won the first and then lost the next and we were going to lose that match, everybody was like you’re done. But Liz literally said ‘We’re not losing this match’ and that’s what we need. We need that Liz who’s going to stand up there and go ‘You’re going with me whether I have to ask you or kill you to go there.’”

For Brenner and the Ducks, the ability to play host for the first two rounds is a huge accomplishment. Not only do the Ducks get to avoid things such as airports, hotels and opposing fans, they get the huge advantage of being within their own elements and playing at an arena where they are 13-3 on the year.

“Playing at home is huge,” Brenner said. “Having our home fans – mentally that’s huge by getting to relax a bit, sleep in our bed; it’s definitely a huge advantage for us.”

Oklahoma and LSU will start off the Eugene-portion of the Regional with a 4:30 p.m. game on Thursday and be followed by the Ducks playing Santa Clara at 7 p.m. the same night. The winner of each match will then play on Friday at 4 p.m. with the right to advance to Minneapolis, Minnesota and the round of 16.

Here’s a breakdown of each team:

No. 10 Oregon (21-9, 11-9 in the Pac-12): The Ducks enter the tournament playing in what Moore calls the “the most difficult sub-region of any seed.” Offensively, the Ducks are led by Pac-12 first teamers Martenne Bettendorf and Brenner and setters Maggie Scott and Shellsy Ashen. Because of the Ducks’ depth offensively, they are able to run a 6-2 rotation and that has baffled their opponents all year long. Bettendorf leads the squad by averaging 3.67 kills per set while Brenner, freshman Frankie Shebby and senior Kacey Nady all average over 2.0 kills per set. Scott and Ashen combine to average 12.32 assists per set and have distributed the ball evenly to all hitters, including middle Serena Warner and outside hitters Taylor Agost and Naya Crittenden. Defensively, Amanda Benson is one of the best liberos in the country and leads the team with an average of 4.31 digs per set. Brenner and Chelsey Keoho combine to make a formidable backline where opponents have struggled to find the floor all year long.

“The focus has to be on the next play, it’s about the next play – and the next play is the first one against Santa Clara,” Moore said. “You have to be focused on the process and we have to enjoy the process.”

Santa Clara (22-9, 12-6 in WCC): Santa Clara enters the tournament after finishing third in the West Coast Conference. The Broncos are one of the better offensive teams in the nation by posting a .262 team hitting percentage, good enough for 22nd in the nation and are led by Nikki Hess and her 3.72 kills per set. They also are one of the best serving teams in the country, ranking third with an average of 1.83 aces per set. If Santa Clara struggles anywhere, it’s on the defensive side of the ball as it allows a .232 hit average from its’ opponents.

“Santa Clara has 1.83 aces per set,” Moore said. “That’s a lot more than Washington has and Washington is the toughest serving team, at least I thought there was, in the country.”

LSU (19-8, 14-4 in SEC): Sophomore Briana Holman is one of the best middle blockers in the nation and she is the key to LSU’s offense. Holman leads the team with an average of 3.90 kills per set and it’s her overall play that allows four other Tigers to average 1.90 kills per set. Holman doesn’t affect the game with her offensive skills; she does so with her defense by averaging 1.48 blocks per set while Haley Smith is the defensive specialist, averaging 4.35 digs per set. On the year, LSU is 1-4 against the top-25.

“LSU is very good – solid,” Moore said. “There’s a middle for them that went to China with us as a part of that USA team and she’s really good – first hand I know she’s really good.”

Oklahoma (20-10, 10-6 in Big-12): The second place team in the Big-12 might be the most dangerous threat against keeping Oregon from advancing. The Sooners seem to play their best when their opposition is very talented, as evident when Oklahoma swept No. 2 Texas earlier in the year before following in five sets four weeks ago to the Longhorns. Outside hitters Kierra Holst and Madison Ward lead the Sooners offense by each averaging over three kills per set while the offense as a whole hits at a .264 hitting percentage. Although the Sooners aren’t a very good blocking team, they do have three players averaging over two digs per set, proving that opponents have a tough time finding the floor.

“Oklahoma beat Texas,” Moore said. “That’s all you need to know about that.”

Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka

ASU Upends #11 Ranked Ducks

photo courtesy Paul Harvey IV

photo courtesy Paul Harvey IV

The #11 Oregon Ducks volleyball team hosted the #18 Arizona State Sun Devils on Friday afternoon, and fell in five sets; 25-12, 24-26, 25-20, 24-26, 9-15.

The Ducks mustered a season low .137 attack percentage, and still had a legitimate chance to win the match in the fourth set. Instead, Oregon had few answers for the ferocious attack of ASU’s Macey Gardner. “We played very anxious. Everybody looked like they were scared to death,” said head coach Jim Moore.

Oregon recorded a season-high 12 blocks for the match, but ASU nearly doubled that with 21 blocks of their own. The Ducks’ defense played well but ultimately faltered in key stretches of sets four and five.

“Lack of discipline on the block and lack of discipline in other places, that cost us,” said Moore.

Liz Brenner and Martenne Bettendorf led the Ducks with 17 kills each. Amanda Benson led Oregon’s 88 digs with 23 of her own. Maggie Scott set for 29, and Shellsy Ashen for 26.

Macey Gardner scored 24 kills for the Sun Devils, with Bianca Arellano assisting for 43 as well as leading ASU with 23 digs.

The Ducks finish the first half of the Pac-12 portion of their schedule at 6-4, and are trying to stay near the top of the heap in with the NCAA tournament looming in the not-so-distant future.

Oregon split this week’s series with the Arizona schools, but in the Pac-12 there is no letup with another good team always around the corner. Next week the Ducks will host California on Friday, Oct 31st at 8:00 pm, and Stanford on Sunday, Nov. 2nd at 11:00 am.

The Ducks will have to look at this match and then let it go, even though coach Moore reminds us that “No loss is easy to put behind.”

   ~ Carl Blackwell

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Ducks Stay Perfect, Drop Buffs

photo courtesy Paul Harvey IV

photo courtesy Paul Harvey IV

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 .138.2014-09-27 Colorado (116)g

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.”

photo courtesy - Paul Harvey IV

photo courtesy – Paul Harvey IV

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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Seattle Swept; Ducks Head to Conference Play

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe #13 Oregon Ducks volleyball team maintained their undefeated nonconference record and defeated the Seattle Redhawks in straight sets; 25-13, 25-13, 25-21. Head coach Jim Moore tied Karla Rice’s record of 196 wins as the Oregon wins leader with the victory.

Seattle has never beaten the Ducks and wasn’t expected to on this night, as Oregon’s defense stepped up in the first two sets. In the second set, Oregon held the Redhawks to a -.081 attack percentage off some of their best defense of the season thus far.

“Our blocking did really well, and defense got better,” said Oregon libero Amanda Benson. “It’s been struggling the past week…but we’ve been working hard and I thought that showed tonight.”

Oregon allowed Seattle to take the lead several times in the third set before taking over and sweeping the Redhawks on the night. Said coach Moore, “Our intensity (wasn’t good in the third set), but our focus was real good. I was pleased with that.”

Iris Ivanis of Seattle had eight kills on the night, with Keery Lane providing 25 assists.

Martenne Bettendorf led the Duck attack with nine kills. Liz Brenner and Naya Crittenden each added another eight kills. Maggie Scott and Shellsy Ashen continue to share setting duties, and both were even with 16 assists. Amanda Benson scored 11 digs for the match.

Oregon now goes into conference play undefeated, and the level of competition will step up significantly. “We looked (at conference play) last week. The worst RPI team of the conference was 40,” observed coach Moore. “So you have 12 teams in the top 40. We’ve got to be ready for that.”

The Oregon Ducks begin their PAC-12 conference play tonight with a match in Matthew Knight Arena against the Oregon State Beavers, at 7:30 pm.

~ Carl Blackwell


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Oregon sand volleyball: Ducks claim first win in program history during last day of Gamecock Invitational

After suffering an 0-3 start to its inaugural season, the Oregon sand volleyball team got its first win, 3-2 over Louisiana-Monroe, in the first of two matches to finish out the Gamecock Invitational in South Carolina.

Naya Crittenden and Serena Warner used their athleticism to win their first match of the season, a 21-13, 21-15 victory over the No. 5 spot of Louisiana-Monroe.

After leading 1-0, the Ducks earned the advantage at the No. 4 spot as Shellsy Ashen and Martenne Bettendorf continued their undefeated start to the season with a 21-14, 22-20 victory.

Louisiana-Monroe responded with victories at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots to even up the score at 2-2 and that set the stage for Oregon’s freshman duo of Amanda Benson and Kacey Nady.

All was looking well as Benson and Nady pulled out the first set 21-18 but lost the second set in dramatic fashion 21-23 to set up a winner take all third set. The freshmen responded with a 17-15 victory to not only pull out the match but give the Ducks their first win in program history.

The second match of the day provided very little drama as Oregon was pounded 5-0 by Alabama-Birmingham. The No. 2 spot of Liz Brenner and Tatum Norton was the only Ducks duo to not get swept in the match.

Oregon will have three days off before returning to action in Southern California when they face Cal-State Bakersfield.

Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka

Oregon sand volleyball: Ducks still struggling to begin season, fall to 0-3 in Gamecock Invitational

The Oregon San volleyball team is still experiencing growing pains in its inaugural season as it dropped to 0-3 on the season with losses to LSU and the College of Charleston in the second and third matches of the Gamecock Invitational.

Just like the opening match, the Ducks fell to both opponents 4-1 in the scoring column. Keeping up with the theme of “just like yesterday,” Shellsy Ashen and Martenne Bettendorf were the only Ducks duo to earn a victory, winning both of their matches to record the only points for Oregon throughout the entire Invitational.

Ashen and Bettendorf defeated their LSU counterparts 21-12 and 21-18 and then dispatched the No. 4 spot of College of Charleston players 21-17, 17-21 and 17-15.

The Ducks fell handily to LSU in their first action of the day as only one match went to three sets as Kacey Nady and Tatum Norton rallied to win the first set 21-17 but then fell 19-21 in the second set. The third set provided a lot of drama but the duo came out on the losing end, falling 13-15 at their No. 3 spot.

The match between the Ducks and College of Charleston was as entertaining as it gets as four of the five matches went the three-set distance but the Ducks came up on the losing end on three of them.

Canace Finley and Natalie Bookout Gonzalez showed a lot of fight in their No. 1 match as they came back from losing set one 23-25 to win the second set 21-19 and force a third set. The duo ran out of steam though as they fell 15-11. Oregon’s No. 2 duo spot of Liz Brenner and Amanda Benson started strong with a 21-13 win but fell in the next two sets by scores of 14-21 and 10-15.

Norton and Nady fought back to win their second set 21-18 after falling 15-21 in the first set and force a third and decisive set. Just like the previous duos, this duo lost the third set, falling 10-15 this time.

The Ducks return to action on Sunday to finish out the Gamecock Invitational with matches against Louisiana-Monroe at 6 a.m. and Alabama-Birmingham at 10:30 a.m. PT.

Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka

Oregon sand volleyball: Ducks start inaugural season with loss to South Carolina

As with any new sport, growing pains are to be expected.

The Ducks are now experiencing those pains as they compete in their first ever season of sand volleyball in Oregon athletics history.

Oregon traveled all the way to Columbia, S.C., to open up the season against South Carolina but would not emerge victorious, losing 4-1 in a best-of-five set scenario.

Sand volleyball is different from regular volleyball because each “team” has only two players competing at a time, much different from the standard six-player format seen on the hardwood. Also, each individual team plays in a best-of-three to 21 points, with the winner earning a single point for its school.

Oregon’s No. 4 duo of Shellsy Ashen and Martenne Bettendorf earned the first victory in school history and helped prevent the clean sweep by the Gamecocks, winning 21-9, 20-22 and 15-13.

Amanda Benson and Canace Finley, the Ducks’ top duo, lost in straight sets (21-11,21 -18) to South Carolina’s Paige Wheeler and Megan Kent.

The Ducks lost the No. 2 and No. 3 matches, as well.

Liz Brenner and Natalie Bookout Gonzalez, Oregon’s No. 2 duo, suffered a 24-22 defeat in their first set and were unable to recover from the close loss as they were dominated 21-14 in the second set.

Oregon’s No. 3 duo of Tatum Norton and Kacey Nady showed some fight in the second set of their match. After being thoroughly overmatched in a 21-14 first set loss, the Ducks duo came from behind to force extra points, however were unable to pull together a win, falling 27-25 in the end.

Serena Warner and Naya Crittenden, the Ducks’ tallest and most athletic duo, couldn’t find solid footing in the sand as they fell in straight sets 21-16 and 21-10.

Oregon doesn’t have much time to mourn its loss as it returns to action tomorrow with a doubleheader against LSU at 10:30 a.m. and College of Charleston at 2:45 p.m.

Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka

Oregon volleyball wins fourth straight heading into season finale

The Ducks are flying high at the right time.

With the NCAA Tournament looming in the near future, the Ducks have all but secured a spot in the tournament and are playing the best they have all year.

Wednesday’s sweep of Washington State was Oregon’s fourth consecutive win and third road win in a row. The Ducks defeated the Cougars 25-22, 25-19, 25-19 to move their record to 18-11 overall and 11-8 in the Pac-12.

Once again, Liz Brenner was Oregon’s best offensive player as she tallied a match-high 15 kills and added five digs. Ariana Williams and Martenne Bettendorf also notched double-digit kills, 12 and 11 respectively, while nobody from Washington State notched double-digit kills.

Lauren Plum, Oregon’s setter, recorded a match-high 43 assists and added three digs while freshman libero Amanda Benson added a team-high nine digs.

Set one provided all the entertainment and drama any fan could ask for. With the score tied at 6-6, the Ducks went on runs of 4-0 and 8-2 to take a 22-13 lead. With the set looking like Oregon’s, the Cougars came clawing back, getting within two points at 24-22. Luckily for Oregon, Canace Finley ended the comeback by Washington State and notched Oregon’s final point for the 1-0 lead.

The second set was as close as they come with 14 ties taking place before it was over. Trailing 18-16 late in the set, a timely 6-1 run gave Oregon the cushion they needed for a 22-19 lead. Each team would trade points the rest of the way as Oregon took the 2-0 lead.

Coming out of the break, Oregon didn’t play safe with a lead as the Ducks swung and swung en route to 17 kills in the match and only one error. Bettendorf was the star as she had a set-high seven kills on just 10 attempts and no errors to give the Ducks the sweep.

Oregon wraps up the regular season with a home match against archrival Oregon State on Friday at 8 p.m. Prior to the first serve, the Ducks will honor seniors Bethany Bair, Lauren Plum and Ariana Williams for their dedication while donning the green and yellow.

Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka