Ducks Open Weekend With Sweep
EUGENE, Ore. — The No. 16 Oregon volleyball team kept itself in the thick of the Pac-12 title race on the strength of outstanding defense Friday during a sweep of visiting California in Matthew Knight Arena, 25-17, 25-17, 25-17.
The victory kept the Ducks (12-3) one loss behind Washington State and tied with Washington in the conference standings. Oregon had 12 blocks and 55 digs across the three sets, limiting Cal to .026 hitting.
"Those are big-time numbers," UO coach Matt Ulmer said. "Holding a team to almost zero is great. In our conference, that's pretty hard to do."
How It Happened: Oregon set the tone from the outset, recording 21 digs and holding Cal to .045 hitting in game one. A kill by Brooke Nuneviller out of the back row tied the game 2-2 and sparked a four-point UO run that included two Karson Bacon kills, putting the Ducks ahead for good. Morgan Lewis earned a sideout for Oregon that made it 11-7, and the Ducks added two more points in a row on a block by Abby Hansen and Nuneviller and an ace by Kylie Robinson. Nunviller had another ace for a 15-8 lead, and three straight Cal errors put Oregon up 20-11. Bacon had a kill to set up game point and Nuneviller ended it, 25-17.
An ace from Elise Ferreira put Oregon up for good in game two at 4-3. Back-to-back kills by Lewis made it 7-4 and sparked a run of seven straight UO points. Bacon and Lewis each got in on two blocks during that run, and Lewis teamed with Jade Sadeiko for a block that made it 15-6. Cal put together a rally to close from 17-9 to 17-13, but Gloria Mutiri ended the run and Nuneviller followed with an ace. Taylor Borup had a kill to set up game point, and Lewis ended it, 25-17.
Game three played out differently from the first two, with Oregon leading fro the outset and Cal mounting a mid-game rally. A block by Bacon and Borup put the Ducks up 5-2 early, and an ace by Borup made it 9-5. Cal began to inch back in, and the Golden Bears ultimately took a 13-12 lead on a UO ball-handling error. The team traded points, until a service error by Cal broke a 15-15 tie. The Ducks then scored three more points in a row — two on blocks by the tandem of Lewis and Bacon. Oregon finished the match with five straight points, with two kills from Hansen, one by Mutiri, a block and Hansen and Mutiri and a kill from Nuneviller.
Who Stood Out: Nuneviller matched her season low with eight kills, also finishing with 12 digs, three aces and three blocks. Lewis added eight kills with five blocks, and Bacon had six kills with seven blocks. Borup had five kills, 14 digs, three blocks and two aces.
"Our blocking is close to being at an elite level," Ulmer said. "That's a really big deal. If we could sideout better, we could really put a lot of pressure on teams. Hopefully we can continue to grow with that."
What It Means: For as strong as Oregon's defense was Friday, Ulmer is still looking for more rhythm offensively, particularly with postseason play only a couple of weeks away.
"It's really about getting ready for the (NCAA Tournament) bubble," the UO coach said. "And then when we get there, we don't just want to be there. We want to make a run."
Up Next: The Ducks host a rematch with the Golden Bears on Sunday at noon.