Ariana Williams - Page 2

Ducks Volleyball Opens Pac-12 Slate With Sweep Over Rival Beavers


No. 21 Oregon Ducks volleyball (8-3, 1-0 Pac-12) opened its Pac-12 slate by absolutely demolishing the Beavers (9-3, 0-1) in the Corvallis Civil War. Though they suffered from early deficits each set, Oregon won all three sets by at least six points, sweeping Oregon State 25-17—25-18—25-19.

In sum, there were 22 ties and nine lead changes throughout the match, as the Ducks had to overcome hostile crowd noise. But when this team gets going, there’s not a lot that crowd noise can do to take it out of them. The usual suspects sent blows time and again as Liz Brenner (15) and Ariana Williams (11) finished with double-digit kills and they were joined by eight kills from streaky sophomore Martenne Bettendorf and nine from Canace Finley.

Oregon Ducks Volleyball
Oregon Ducks Volleyball | (Gary Breedlove/Eugene Daily News)

Finley’s been nothing short of outstanding this year, and she was the complete package for Oregon in this one, leading the team in blocks with seven. The defense for Oregon tallied 10 total blocks and 35 total digs, outblocking the Beavs by six and outdigging them by an astounding eight. The defense was led by Finley, but embodied by defensive specialist Amanda Benson.

The freshman libero, Benson, stepped right onto the starting roster to replace last year’s senior liberos, Haley Jacob and Kellie Kawasaki, and has made very few mistakes. She led the Ducks with 10 digs and holds the Oregon season lead for digs with 130.

But lest ye think the defense won this one, it was an on point offensive attack that destroyed the Beavers. The team had their season-high attacking percentage with .413, their highest total since the last time the Ducks breached .400 — against Washington on Oct. 12, 2012 — and while it was a team effort, it was an incredibly efficient one with only four attackers finishing with double-digit swings.

Liz Brenner
Liz Brenner | (Gary Breedlove/Eugene Daily News)

Brenner tallied 15 kills on just 35 attempts. Williams was 11 for 20. Bettendorf was 8 for 18. And Finley had 9 for 16.

Senior setter Lauren Plum didn’t attempt anything on the attack, but chipped in four kills, finished with 40 assists, and added a point of her own with an ace.

The biggest match thus far of Oregon’s season takes place this Friday, when the Ducks return home to take on the Washington Huskies. At 8 p.m. on Friday at Matt Knight Arena, it’s a battle of top-25 Pac-12 powers and could be a huge momentum builder for Oregon’s season.

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Ducks volleyball sweeps Beavers in Pac-12 opener

The Oregon volleyball team extended their season-high winning streak to five games, the latest coming in a straight set victory on the road over archrival Oregon State on Wednesday.

The Ducks improved their record to 8-3 and 1-0 in Pac-12 play with the three-set score of 25-17, 25-18, and 25-19.

Just like they have done all season in early sets, Oregon fell behind early and had to rally at the midway point to secure the victory. After trailing early in the opening set, the Ducks used a 9-1 run to take the first set easily.

Oregon was unable to get off to a better start in the second set, once again trailing early, this time 6-2. A dominating 9-3 run after a timeout gave the Ducks an 11-9 lead, something they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way en route to the set two win.

Not wanting to be swept on their home court, the Beavers came out fighting in the third set. Instead of pounding the ball into Oregon’s massive front line, Oregon State went with a different game plan, using tip shots and placement of its hits rather than pure power.

The game was a back and forth battle between the two teams with each team battling for every point and long rallies taking place. Tied up at 19-19, the Ducks used a 6-0 run at the end to put the set away and get the sweep.

Overall, the game was one of Oregon’s bests on the year. The Ducks made only seven hitting errors en route to a .413 hitting percentage, their highest of the season and best since a match against Washington last year.

Sophomore Canace Finley had her best game for the year for Oregon, controlling the net with a variety of shots to amass nine kills and getting a career-high seven blocks. Junior Liz Brenner seemed to find her groove after struggling for much of the preseason with a match-high 15 kills and added eight digs.

Senior middle blocker Ariana Williams added 11 kills for the Ducks and four blocks while fellow senior, setter Lauren Plum, dished out a match-high 40 assists.

Oregon returns to action Friday for their biggest match of the season to date. The Ducks will host the second-ranked Washington Huskies at 8 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena. The Huskies are a perfect 11-0 this season, only dropping six sets the entire year.

No. 20 Oregon Volleyball Gets Sweep of Fresno State Classic


No. 20 Oregon Volleyball (7-3) answered a lot of early-season questions with a nine-set sweep of their three matches in the Fresno State Classic. Ariana Williams had double-digit kills in all three matches and after the second set of match one, the Ducks won every set by at least four.

Match one on Friday night started close, but Oregon’s defense tightened up later on. Against Cal State Bakersfield, the Ducks won 25-23 and 25-22 before dominating set three 25-18, with the help of 12 Bakersfield errors in that set alone. Senior setter Lauren Plum led the team in assists (36) once again, but also reached her fourth double-double of the season with 10 digs. Williams led the team in kills with 12 and the team outshot CSU by a considerable margin throughout.

Oregon Ducks Volleyball
Oregon Ducks Volleyball
(Gary Breedlove/Eugene Daily News)

That CSU match was probably Plum’s best of the season as she added five kills on six attempts for a blistering .833 clip. Plum’s specialty is a trick shot which turns the second hit (typically angled for an assist to a hitter) into a sneaky lift over the net. When used sparingly, it has had an excellent rate of success.

The Ducks woke up early Saturday morning and got right back to work. They stormed out to beat Belmont 25-12, 25-20 and 25-15, finishing with a .356 attack percentage, compared to their opponent’s .040 rate. The Bruins were overmatched in just about every phase of the game as they lost the blocking battle 11-3 and, despite the Ducks’ error problems, Belmont doubled Oregon up in errors, 22-11.

Four Ducks finished the second match with at least seven kills, led again by Williams at 11 but followed closely by Martenne Bettendorf (8), Liz Brenner (8) and Canace Finley (7). Brenner had 9 in the first match as well, but finished all three matches with attack percentages under .250. And Plum finished the second match with 36 assists again.

Liz Brenner
Liz Brenner | (Gary Breedlove/Eugene Daily News)

Oregon finished the weekend strong Saturday night against Fresno State. The team regrouped after a 25-21 first set, to finish with a runaway 25-17 and 25-14 second and third sets. The team trailed just twice in the entire match, falling behind early, and tying up the first set at 14. The teams traded the advantage for a bit, but Oregon cruised once they passed the 20-point mark. The Ducks only trailed once each in the second set and third set.

Brenner led the team in kills this set with 13 and Williams gave them a second double-digit killer with 10. The team again had a large lead in blocks, 11.5-to-6 over the Bulldogs. And Amanda Benson, who’s been a revelation at libero, picked up 15 digs. And coach Jim Moore had to be impressed by another win in the errors category, finishing with nine less errors (20-11).

With seven wins under their belt, the Ducks have an 11-day break until their next match. Oregon travels to Corvallis on Sept. 25 to duel with the Beavers in an important rivalry match.

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Ducks volleyball starts Fresno State Classic with sweep

For Oregon volleyball, the 2013 season hasn’t started out as strongly as expected. The Ducks were 4-3 entering the Fresno State Classic this weekend, their last non-conference games until Pac-12 play begins September 25th.

Oregon opened Friday night against Cal State Bakersfield and won in straight sets. The first set was dead even. Bakersfield edged Oregon in kills 17-15 and made fewer attack errors, but the Ducks won the set 25-23. The Roadrunners led most of the way until the Ducks took their first lead of the set 14-13 on an ace by Shellsy Ashen. From then on Oregon wouldn’t look back. They maintained a lead over Bakersfield until Debora Araujo came through with a kill to tie it at 23 a side. Consecutive errors by Bakersfield gave Oregon the first set.

The second set was just as back and forth. Oregon dominated in kills 18-12 and squeaked out the 25-22 win. The Roadrunners led 17-13 late in the set, but Oregon came storming back, winning seven of 11 points to tie it at 20. Tied at 22, a kill by Martenne Bettendorf, an ace by Ariana Williams and a Lauren Plum block gave the Ducks their second consecutive set.

Oregon committed eight attack errors in the final set but still came through and won 25-18, completing the three-set sweep of Bakersfield (5-3). The Ducks (5-3) were in control for most of the third set, holding a lead as large as 21-16.

Plum recorded 36 of Oregon’s 41 assists Friday, bringing her season total to 287. The reigning national leader in assists and Pac-12 setter of the year also led the team with 10 digs and recorded five kills on the night. Williams led the Ducks in kills with 12 and had two service aces.

Oregon will resume play Saturday against Belmont at 10 a.m. and then again at 7:30 p.m. against tournament hosts Fresno State.

Oregon volleyball drops straight sets to Ohio

After grabbing a straight set win against Bryant this morning, the Ducks (2-1) dropped their first game of the season against the Ohio Bobcats (3-0) in the same fashion. The Ducks did have to wait two games before playing the Bobcats, but judging by their performance, it looked to be a little more than just a layover issue.

In the first set, both teams were dead even as they continued to trade leads every other point. But following an Ariana Williams service error late in the set, the Ducks dropped three straight points to give up the first set to the Bobcats 25-21. This would be a reoccurring theme for the Ducks however as they continued to struggle closing out their sets down the stretch.

The second set was in essence a carbon copy of the first as the Ducks trailed the Bobcats 21-20 late in the set. And just like the previous set, the Bobcats managed to edge out the Ducks by winning three-out-of-the-last-four points to win the second set 25-22.

With a commanding two set lead heading into the third, the Bobcats took full control and continued to pile on kill-after-kill as they eventually went on to hand the Ducks their first loss of the season.

Leading the Ducks today were Williams and Martenne Bettendorf. Both players finished with 10 kills and helped the Ducks keep a close distance with the Bobcats. Lauren Plum on the other hand finished with 35 assists and had a relatively quiet game this evening. While the Ducks have only played three games this season, they will have to figure out a way to build a level of consistency moving forward and that begins with cleaning up the little mistakes they made today.

For the Bobcats, it was Kelly Lamberti and Chelsea Bilger leading the way as they combined for nearly half their teams’ kills. Lamberti finished with a team high 13 kills, while Bilger added 10 of her own. In addition to their kills, both players hit over .300: Lamberti finishing at .355 and Bilger at .316.

But as both Coach Jim Moore and Williams attested to, the Bobcats are going to be one of the better teams they face all season. The Bobcats have been atop of the MAC conference for the last decade and have won seven-out-the-last-ten conference titles. After losing Alaina Bergsma, Katherine Fischer and Haley Jacobs this year, it is understandable that the Ducks struggled in their first real competition of the year.

“We didn’t execute,” Coach Jim Moore said after the loss. “We didn’t make plays when we needed to make plays and they (Ohio) played very well. We have to give it to them, they played good and we gotta make sure that we execute when we have an opportunity to execute and we didn’t do that very much.”

Also disappointed with the loss was Williams, who simply felt there were no excuses for the Ducks poor performance tonight. Although she agreed that the Ducks are still trying to build chemistry as a team, Williams understood that the Ducks simply need to win games, plain and simple.

“Obviously we have to be better,” Williams said following the loss. “It’s always hard incorporating new players. You do have to get chemistry and that will come with time. But that’s no excuse, we’ve been practicing together for about three weeks.”

On the horizon: Next on the Ducks schedule are the Portland State Vikings who will be visiting this upcoming Tuesday. Game time is set for 7 p.m. start at Matthew Knight Arena.

Oregon Ducks Volleyball Picked Fourth by Pac-12 Coaches

Oregon Ducks Volleyball
Oregon Ducks Volleyball
(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

Despite playing Texas in the national championship game last year, and returning two all-Americans, Oregon Ducks volleyball was recently picked to finish just fourth in the Pac-12 this fall. Such is the life in America’s best volleyball conference.

Duck Swiss Army Knife Liz Brenner finished on the second-team after ranking second on the team in kills and points to one Ms. Alaina Bergsma — 2012’s player of the year. She also ranked second in digs to Haley Jacob, a senior on the team who outdug her by more than 200. Now she returns to a team that will be replacing two senior outside hitters, Bergsma and Kat Fischer, and steps to the forefront of the line opposite senior Ariana Williams and sophomore Canace Finley.

Steady setter Lauren Plum was a full head and shoulders above anyone else in the nation at her position last year. She takes the stage her senior year in position to leave a mark on the all-time Pac-12 record books for assists, as well as commanding the quick Duck offense. With a pair of seniors graduating last year at the libero position, Jacob and Kellie Kawasaki, Plum’s role becomes crucial in the Duck backcourt.

Plum finished first-team all-American last year.

So there’s a lot of talent returning on both sides of the court. The obvious question is how this team that returns so much from a national championship run is fourth in conference.

The easy answer is that they weren’t first in the conference last year, riding a successful string of wins through the tournament. Stanford took the championship in 2012 and their 10 first-place votes helped them to 120 points in this poll. USC was in second with 111, Washington had 99 and Oregon (91) was ahead of UCLA in fifth place by 15 points.

Oregon has never started the season projected higher than fourth, though coach Jim Moore‘s teams have met or exceeded expectations in six of his eight seasons coaching.

Brenner and Plum made the preseason all-Pac-12 team, helping Oregon join Stanford, USC and Washington as the only teams with more than one player on the list.

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Alaina Bergsma leads No. 2 Ducks past the Buffaloes

It was another solid outing by the No. 2 University of Oregon women’s volleyball team as they cruised past the University of Colorado in straight sets, keeping their perfect record intact. Colorado, coming off a loss to Oregon State, simply did not have an answer for Miss Oregon USA, Alaina Bergsma, as she racked up […]

Oregon volleyball prepares for NCAA Tournament, Bergsma wins pageant

The Oregon volleyball team flew to Hawaii earlier this week, but the Ducks didn’t stray from the continental United States for a vacation.

Instead, Oregon is preparing to face Colorado State tomorrow in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, disappointed they won’t be playing in Eugene.

Duck coach Jim Moore had harsh words for the NCAA Tournament selection committee that denied Oregon the opportunity to host a regional tournament. The Ducks (21-9, 14-8 Pac-12), have four victories over top-7 opponents, and beat two No. 1-ranked teams.

“I think it has to do with a committee that doesn’t understand volleyball very well,” Moore said. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. I think it’s absurd, but it certainly doesn’t surprise me.”

Oregon wasn’t the only Pac-12 team to get a raw deal from the selection committee. USC, which was ranked No. 1 in the latest coaches poll, received only a seventh seed, Stanford and UCLA were seeded below their coaches poll ranking, and Cal, ranked tenth, was also unseeded.

Like the other Pac-12 teams, Oregon will try to make the best of a disappointing situation. They acknowledge Hawaii isn’t exactly an undesirable destination to begin their NCAA Tournament run.

“We were obviously all disappointed but at the same time, we’re in Hawaii right now,” Duck outside hitter Alaina Bergsma said. “We can’t complain too much.”

The Ducks aren’t viewing the trip as a vacation, however, even though their hotel is near one of Hawaii’s many famous beaches.

“This is a business trip,” Bergsma said. “We are staying fairly close to the beach, so we will be able to hit the beach at some point, but most of us are really just focused on volleyball and getting school done.”

Indeed, Oregon’s time for relaxation will be limited.

“It’s not to experience Hawaii,” Moore said. “(Oregon libero Haley Jacob) said it best. We were in the airport when we left Portland and some woman said our hotel is okay; it’s not on the beach. And (Haley) said we’re not here to go to the beach.”

Bergsma named Miss Oregon USA

After learning her team’s NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday afternoon, Bergsma’s weekend received a major boost later in the day. She was named Miss Oregon USA on Sunday afternoon and will represent the state in the Miss USA pageant in June.

“I found out about 5:30 p.m. on Sunday,” Bergsma said. “I was on stage, holding hands with my first runner-up. I gave her a really big hug, she was announced first, and it just comes as a whirlwind. They hand you flowers and you walk down on stage with a crown on. Just all smiles.”

Bergsma’s teammates have been supportive of her quest to win Miss USA, which began over summer when she won Miss Lane County.

“They were really supportive,” Bergsma said. “I have gotten a lot of jokes, but it’s all in good fun.”

While some schools may put limitations on their athletes during the season, Moore encourages his players to pursue extracurricular activities.

“You have to have a life,” Moore said. “I think that all volleyball all the time makes you crazy. There’s a lot more important things in this world than volleyball. My children are the most important things in my life. There is no question about that.

“You have to have a well-rounded life. I think that’s much more important than just being single-minded.”

Ducks earn Pac-12 recognition

Several Oregon players earned spots on the Pac-12’s post-season all-conference teams. Bergsma and setter Lauren Plum were named to the league’s All-Pac-12 team, middle blocker Ariana Williams earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention, and outside hitter Liz Brenner was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team.

Oregon volleyball upsets No. 3 Cal, No. 5 Stanford

The suddenly well-oiled Oregon volleyball machine took its act on the road last weekend and toppled two more top-five teams in the process.

After stunning then-No. 1 UCLA last Friday, the No. 15 Ducks beat No. 3 Cal (25-6, 15-6 Pac-12) and No. 5 Stanford (21-6, 15-6 Pac-12) in the Bay Area this weekend.

With only two games left in the regular season, the Ducks (20-18, 13-7 Pac-12) are peaking. The timing couldn’t be any better.

“It feels like we’re playing better than we have all year long, so that’s a good thing,” Oregon head coach Jim Moore said. “This is when you want to be playing your best volleyball.”

All that’s left for Oregon is to figure out how to start better. Although they’ve won six of their past seven games, the Ducks have lost the first set in their past four matches.

It’s hard to argue with results, however.

“I think we just have a lot of fight,” Duck outside hitter Liz Brenner said. “A lot of teams, if they go down 0-2 — especially against top-five teams — they’re done. But I think it shows a lot of character that we were able to go down like that and come back and fight hard and give it everything we had and come out with the ‘W’”.

In a 23-25, 25-20, 25-14, 22-25, 15-9 win over Stanford on Friday, Brenner made sure the Ducks’ slow start didn’t get in the way of a victory.

She had one of the best matches of any Duck in recent memory, tallying career highs in kills (31) and hitting percentage (.651).

“I don’t even know how to describe that,” Moore said. “You get 31 kills on 43 swings, that’s just one of those nights. It was one of those nights that took all the pressure off everybody. It was an unbelievable performance.”

Brenner’s offense and Oregon’s stingy defense — the Ducks held the Cardinal to a .234 hitting efficiency and had 11.0 blocks — led to Oregon’s first win over Stanford in Palo Alto in program history. The teams have met 57 times in the series’ history.

“I got a lot of texts from former players last night and they know how hard this road trip is,” Moore said. “This is another step toward getting to where we want to go and sometimes it doesn’t happen as fast as we want, but this was a big step for us.”

Beating Cal 23-25, 19-25, 25-18, 26-24, 15-9 on Saturday night, the Ducks’ first road win over the Bears since 2006, was also a significant victory. Four Ducks — Brenner, Alaina Bergsma, Katherine Fischer, and Ariana Williams — had at least 13 kills in a balanced offensive effort.

“It’s definitely helpful when you have a lot of production out of more than one person,” Brenner said. “When you have three people, four people, having over ten kills, that’s really hard to stop.”

But Oregon’s defense was just as critical.

After allowing Cal to hit .440 and .375 in the first two sets, the Ducks clamped down, holding the Bears to .097, .255, and -.095, respectively, in the match’s final three sets.

“We weren’t digging any balls (in the first two sets) because we were trying so hard to dig balls, and people were running all over the place so we weren’t calm and we weren’t being disciplined,” Moore said. “We were able to get them to recognize that and they calmed down and from that point on we started digging balls. We became the team that we’re capable of being.”

In doing so, Oregon improved its odds to host an NCAA regional tournament, a distinction afforded to 16 of the nation’s top teams.

“It increases our chance to host — by a lot,” Moore said. “We can’t control that. We just have to wait and see what the committee does and we’ll deal with whatever comes before us.”

The Ducks will return to play at 7 p.m. Tuesday when they visit Oregon State, before concluding the regular season with a home date against the Beavers on Friday.

Oregon volleyball falls to UCLA, USC

It was, as Oregon coach Jim Moore saw it, the No. 16 Ducks’ best series of the year. Facing top-caliber competition in USC and UCLA, Oregon showed up ready to compete.

“They were both great matches,” Moore said. “All three teams played very, very well and they were really close and they were really tight and they were as good of volleyball as I had ever seen in my career.”

But against a pair of top-10 teams, even Oregon’s best wasn’t quite good enough.

The Ducks lost 3-1 to the No. 3 Trojans and 3-1 to the No. 6 Bruins over the weekend, dropping Oregon’s record to 12-6, 5-5 in Pac-12 play.

On Friday at Southern California, Oregon fell 25-15, 25-27, 25-23, 25-21.

Statistically, the match was nearly a dead-heat. Although the Trojans outhit the Ducks .242 – .155, the Ducks had slight advantages in team blocks and digs.

After USC won the first set with relative ease, Oregon bounced back in the second, building a huge lead before holding on to edge the Trojans. In the critical third set it was USC that jumped out on top, leading 16-8 midway through the set. Oregon eventually closed the deficit to 24-23, but USC won the crucial set point.

It was that type of weekend for the Ducks.

“Both matches were so evenly played that the stats were almost meaningless,” Moore said. “It just came down to who was going to win a crucial point at a given time.”

USC never trailed in the fourth set and wrapped up the victory. Alex Jupiter led the Trojans by hitting .314 and notching 22 kills, while Ariana Williams led Oregon with 15 kills and a .414 hitting percentage.

“I think we also played pretty well, we just did the same thing: ball handling errors, making silly mistakes, not being focused throughout,” Williams said.

The script played out in much the same fashion Saturday evening in a 25-21, 22-25, 25-23, 25-19 loss to UCLA.

After splitting the first two sets, the Ducks had a golden opportunity to take control of the match in the third. Trailing 16-12, Oregon won seven straight points to go ahead 19-16. However the Bruins responded to win the next six points to go ahead 22-19 and seize control of the set and for all effective purposes, the match.

“Whoever won game three was going to win the match,” Moore said. “(We had) our run and then they came right back.”

UCLA grabbed control of the fourth set midway through, using a 6-2 spurt to go ahead 10-8 and never trailed thereafter.

Alaina Bergsma led Oregon with 14 kills, Liz Brenner had 13 and Kat Fischer and Williams added 11 each. Rachael Kidder (17 kills, .235) and Tabi Love (16 kills, .387) led UCLA’s offensive effort.

The Bruins outhit Oregon .224 to .129 for the match.

“They’re a pretty good defensive team,” Williams said. “But we knew that going into it.”

Despite the pair of losses, Moore was pleased with his team’s effort. It took the best showing of two of the nation’s top teams to edge a determined Oregon squad.

“This is by far the best series we’ve played,” Moore said. “It’s frustrating that we played so well and couldn’t come away with a victory. They were at home and played exceptionally well and in some ways that’s a little unfortunate. ”

On the other hand, Oregon’s remaining schedule is manageable – five of the Ducks’ next six opponents are unranked. If Oregon continues to play as they have been, they should rack up a number of wins in the second half of Pac-12 play.

“We need to just maintain this level of play and we’ll be okay,” Moore said.

Oregon will return home next weekend to face Washington and Washington State.