Kellie Kawasaki

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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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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