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Ducks Open Pac-12 Play With Sweep

Sep 22, 2021

EUGENE, Ore. — Playing before the biggest crowd the Ducks had experienced in nearly two years, the Oregon volleyball team opened Pac-12 play with a sweep of Oregon State on Wednesday in Matthew Knight Arena.

The Ducks (10-1) fed off energy from the crowd of 2,196 to dominate play early before grinding out the final set in a 25-10, 25-15, 26-24 sweep. The crowd was the biggest Oregon had played before since the 2019 season finale, also against Oregon State.

"You lack the college experience when you don't have this: the school pride, the school spirit, the whole deal," UO coach Matt Ulmer said. "Everyone doing 'Shout' together. Just the whole deal. You totally miss that.

"We had a nice season last year, and it would have been so fun to have them around. I'm thankful we played well in front of a good crowd, and I'm hopeful this is just the start."

How It Happened: Taylor Borup opened and closed the match with service aces, with the first point of the night setting the tone for a dominant opening set. The Ducks consistently led by a point or two in the early stretch of the first set, before a kill from Borup sparked an 11-1 run to a 19-7 lead. The run began with seven straight UO points, with Elise Ferreira on serve during the run and finding the floor for two more aces. "That just put so much pressure on Oregon State," Ulmer said of Oregon's aggressive service.

The second set wasn't quite as dominant, as OSU fought back from an early deficit into a 6-6 tie. It was 10-8 when Karson Bacon found the floor and then teamed with Morgan Lewis for a block on consecutive points. Borup had back-to-back kills for a 19-12 lead, and Lewis had kills on the final two points of the set to close it out — and set the stage for a jubilant rendition of "Shout" during the set break. "I definitely think the atmosphere had a lot to do with it tonight, especially at the start," Bacon said. "You have our families, you have friends, you have other teams (from the UO athletic department), you have people from the community coming out to support. That was just a huge shot."

Set three was a battle, with OSU again digging out of an early hole to force a tie at 12-12. Abby Hansen and Gloria Mutiri teamed for a block to regain the lead for Oregon, the first of seven times in the set that the Beavers tied it but Oregon scored the next point to deny OSU a lead. Mutiri had three kills in those situations as the set progressed, and a service error by OSU broke a 24-24 tie before Borup ended the match with an ace. "Teams can make plays," Ulmer said, "but can they make more plays than us? They stepped up their game … and we were able to weather that enough and make plays down the stretch."

Who Stood Out: Lewis had nine kills with four block assists and Bacon also had nine kills while assisting on three blocks, as the Ducks hit .390 while holding OSU to .093 hitting. Along with a sturdy block, a key to that defensive effort was 20 digs from Becca Morse, who stepped into the starting lineup at libero following Georgia Murphy's shoulder injury suffered the week before. "I'm really proud of her," Bacon said of Morse. "This is a big moment for her — the biggest crowd we've had since COVID — and she handled it beautifully."

Brooke Nuneviller led the Ducks with 11 kills and added 10 digs for her fourth double-double of the season. Mutiri and Borup each added seven kills, and Borup added 10 digs with three aces.

Notable: Murphy was not in uniform for the match, and Ulmer didn't specify a potential return date from her shoulder injury. … The biggest crowd the Ducks had previously played before since the pandemic began was 1,324 fans at American a week earlier. … Prior to that, Oregon hadn't seen a crowd as big as Wednesday's since 3,098 fans packed Matthew Knight Arena for a match against OSU on Nov. 29, 2019.

Up Next: The Ducks play at Arizona State on Sunday (noon, Pac-12 Network).