Balanced Ducks Sweep No. 19 Bruins
EUGENE, Ore. — The Oregon volleyball team bounced back from defeat in resounding fashion Sunday, playing with the lead for much of the afternoon in a sweep of No. 19 UCLA at Matthew Knight Arena, 25-23, 25-22, 25-19.
The Ducks (2-2) lost to the Bruins in four games Friday, but looked like a much more cohesive team just two days later, both offensively and defensively. Oregon had six players with at least six kills in Sunday's sweep, and the Ducks' block helped hold UCLA star Mac May to a .114 hitting percentage.
"Just really proud of our group," UO coach Matt Ulmer said. "We definitely did not play our best Friday. … I just really liked our energy today. I like the way we fought back. We fought hard."
How It Happened: Ulmer said Oregon's "setters took Friday to heart," after only Brooke Nuneviller and Taylor Borup were consistently involved in the offense that night. Conversations and film sessions involving setters Kylie Robinson and Elise Ferreira between matches yielded immediate results, with the Ducks keeping UCLA off-balance thanks to a more diverse attack. That kept the Bruins from going on the sustained scoring runs that fueled their victory Friday, as the Ducks had a sparkling side-out rate of 72.3 percent on Sunday.
The Ducks never trailed by more than a point in the opening game, trailing for the last time at 12-11 before Abby Hansen's solo block tied the score. Kills by Karson Bacon and Nuneviller gave Oregon some cushion with a 16-14 lead, and then back-to-back blocks of May by Hansen and Gloria Mutiri put the Ducks up 20-16. UCLA fought back into a 23-23 tie, but a kill by Taylor Williams set up game point, and the Ducks clinched it to go up 1-0.
Oregon had to be more resilient in game two, falling behind 7-4 in the early going. Bacon got the Ducks going with a kill, then teamed with Nuneviller for a block that got Oregon within 7-6 before Mutiri tied it. UCLA inched out to another three-point lead at 16-13, but Nuneviller got the Ducks back on track and Williams capped a five-point run for a kill and an 18-16 lead. That run included two errors by May, as the Ducks confounded UCLA's dominant hitter. Oregon stayed out front the rest of the way, and Borup ended it on game point.
Game three was all Oregon, with UCLA never leading after a brief advantage at 2-1. Two kills by Hansen and another by Williams — on a point kept alive by a Nuneviller pancake — put the Ducks in front, and they never surrendered the lead. Hansen and Mutiri blocked May for a 13-9 lead, and Mutiri had four straight kills for Oregon as the Ducks held off the Bruins to lead 22-16. Nuneviller's first kill of the game set up match point, and Bacon finished off the sweep for Oregon.
UO coach Matt Ulmer on Oregon's up-and-down start to the season
"We just haven't had that much time together. So it's going to be hit-or-miss. Today showed what we're capable of, and where we can continue to grow. … For this group it's about learning how to be a winner, how to be a contender, how to be a champion. I believe we have all the pieces. It's just about them working it out together."
UO junior Gloria Mutiri on the discussions among players after Friday's loss
"We just had to be very open: Hey, what do you need from me? What do I need from you? Obviously that's got to continue through the season but … I was really proud of our setters and our defense and everybody who was just communicating and making that happen."
Notable: Oregon swept a ranked opponent for the first time since Oct. 7, 2018, when it knocked off No. 12 USC in straight sets … The Ducks have beaten a ranked team 16 times under Ulmer … Three of Oregon's six players who had at least 10 swings hit at least .400 ... Nuneviller's 18 digs were a season-high, giving her at least 13 in each of the first four matches … Mutiri has led the team in kills in both wins this season, finishing with a team-high tying 11 ... Both Oregon setters finished with over 20 assists, with Ferreira dishing out 23 and Robinson recording 21 ... The Ducks played with only nine available players for the second straight match.
Up Next: The Ducks go on the road to play at USC on Friday (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network).