Volleyball Showdown

Oregon most certainly won't be the No. 2 team in the nation anymore when next week's AVCA Top 25 is released, but Pac-12 Networks analyst Al Scates expects the Ducks to still play like they are when they host No. 1 Stanford on Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Ducks (20-2, 11-2) lost to Cal in five sets on Friday night, which will certainly cause them to drop in the poll. But for now, Sunday's match is still a battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2, and Scates believes Oregon will be at the top of its game.

"I think they'll come ready to play," Scates said. "Oregon overlooked California. They gave away the first two sets before they even started playing. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a high-level caliber of play."

With the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, Stanford (21-2, 13-0) is going with a lot of youth this season, but the inexperience doesn't seem to be proving to be too much of a detriment. That's mostly because those freshmen are uber-talented. Middle hitter Inky Ajanaku ranks second in the Pac-12 with a .384 hitting percentage. Outside hitters Jordan Burgess and Brittany Howard combine to average 5.03 kills per set. Setter Madi Bugg is ninth in the conference with 8.07 assists per set.

The Cardinal enter Sunday with a 19-match win streak.

"The freshmen are amazing," Scates said. "They're going to be better next year than they are now. Oregon better beat them now, that's all I can say."

While the Ducks lost Friday, they still showcased an offense that can be virtually unstoppable when their ball control is in order. Outside hitter Liz Brenner had 26 kills against Cal at a .455 hitting percentage while All-American Alaina Bergsma added 25 kills at a .404 clip. Oregon also features arguably the nation's best setter in Lauren Plum.

"They have two of the best outside hitters in the country," Scates said. "Both are very impressive. I really like Plum. Their outside hitters had a great match against Cal and Plum did a great job. I haven't seen the rest of the country but she's the best of what I've seen."

So who has the edge? In the first match between the teams this season, which the Cardinal won in five sets, Stanford was led by junior middle blocker and All-American candidate Carly Wopat, who had 15 kills, eight blocks and hit .371.

"Oregon has to serve tough because they can't stop Stanford's middles one on one," Scates said. "Stanford's middle hitters are amongst the best in the country. They need to force Stanford to go outside. Stanford's freshman are exceptional hitters at this point in their careers on the outside, but Oregon needs to dig them and block them and slow them down."

The match airs on the Pac-12 Networks, beginning at 1 p.m. Regional action begins the day of volleyball on the networks at 11 a.m. with three matches -- Utah at Washington, Cal at Oregon State and USC at Arizona.



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