After the Oregon volleyball team’s tough loss to Stanford last week, which ended their undefeated streak at fourteen straight wins, some emotional letdown in their next game was to be expected. Luckily for the Ducks, the uneven performance they turned in Friday evening at Matthew Knight Arena proved to be more than enough to defeat Washington State.
If there was ever an opponent that seemed tailor-made to boost a team’s confidence after a big defeat, it’s the 2012 Cougars. After beginning the year with a sterling 10-2 record, in non-conference play, the squad from Pullman has spent the last month in a state of perpetual freefall; including last night’s loss, they’ve now lost seven games in a row, all of them versus Pac-12 opponents.
However, Washington State’s losing streak paints a rather inaccurate portrait of a volleyball squad tanking as hard and as fast as it possibly can. If anything, the Cougars are a good team that has the ill fortune to be competing in a conference filled to the brim with great ones.
“Washington State played very, very, very well,” said head coach Jim Moore after the game. “I mean they hit .313 or something like that in game one,” he continued, adding that WSU’s strong performance helped keep his team focused on the task at hand.
The game itself followed a pattern familiar to anyone who has followed the Ducks this season. The opening set began with six tied scores in the first twenty points, thanks in no small part to four points scored by Washington State off of errors by Oregon players.
After one final tie at 10-10, the Ducks took the lead for good by reeling off four straight scores, two of them off of kills by outside hitter Katherine Fischer. Fischer, who led the team in scoring in the first set with five kills, finished the night with eight kills and two service aces. The Cougars were able to keep things close for the rest of the set, but were ultimately unable to stop the home team from cruising to a 25-20 win.
Not to be outdone, set two opened with no less than eight tied scores and two lead changes in the first sixteen points, but this time it was the Cougars who led for most of the set. Washington State outside hitter Rachel Todorovich, who ended the game as her team’s leading scorer with 15 kills, gave the Ducks fits all set long with a barrage of impressively quick spikes to momentarily vulnerable areas in their defensive coverage.
But, despite the best efforts of Todorovich and her teammates, Oregon was able to tighten up their sloppy play and tie the game up at 17-17 before pushing ahead for a 25-21 victory.
In a bit of a role reversal, Washington State started off the third set by spotting the Ducks four of their first six points. But unlike their opponent, the Cougars were unable to rally back from their poor start before Oregon sprinted across the finish line, 25-12.
Next up, the Ducks will square off tonight against the last remaining undefeated team in the nation, the 2nd-ranked Washington Huskies. The game, which begins at 7:00 at Matthew Knight Arena, will also be streamed live via the Pac-12’s website.
Photos are property of Matthew Heuett/Eugene Daily News
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