No. 17 Ducks Sweep No. 12 Bruins
EUGENE, Ore. — Three weeks after being swept at UCLA to lose their third match in a row, the UO volleyball team turned the tables and swept the 12th-ranked Bruins on Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena, extending Oregon's current winning streak to five matches.
The No. 17 Ducks (20-6, 11-5 Pac-12) were coming off a win Friday over USC in which they won two sets, then had to survive a fifth set to escape with a win. This time Oregon stayed aggressive throughout and completed the first sweep by any UCLA opponent this season, ending the Bruins' seven-match win streak and turning the tables after the UO loss in Los Angeles on Oct. 22.
"Very proud of our fight," sophomore middle blocker Karson Bacon said. "This turnaround was pretty short. I think it's a big testament to our team, to show how much maturity can happen in a short period of time."
How It Happened: Oregon took several points to find its rhythm, but four early service errors by the Bruins allowed the Ducks to stay within 6-4. At that point UCLA scored three in a row, prompting a timeout by UO coach Matt Ulmer at 9-4. Whatever his message, it got through — Taylor Williams scored for the Ducks coming out of the timeout, and a kill by Brooke Nuneviller moments later sparked a five-point UO run to get the Ducks within 13-12. A UCLA error gave Oregon its first lead at 15-14 and the Ducks never trailed again, getting a Morgan Lewis kill to break an 18-18 tie before going on to win the set.
"We made some poor decisions (early in the set) that made them feel comfortable in our gym," Ulmer said. "Once you do that, it can be hard to make them uncomfortable again. So, kudos to us."
The Ducks led the second set throughout, going up 3-0 on kills by Bacon, Nuneviller and Gloria Mutiri. A UCLA error, a kill by Bacon and a block by Bacon and Williams made it 15-10, and Nuneviller had kills for five of Oregon's final six points in the set. UCLA star Mac May, on the other hand, had just one kill in the set as the Ducks limited her to eight kills in the match on .081 hitting; May came into the match averaging 4.83 kills per set on .274 hitting.
"She's a dangerous hitter," Bacon said. "What we planned on was giving her a little sliver where she has to hit — the block will take away what we can, and Georgia (Murphy) and the rest of the defensive players will take care of the rest. … It's a team effort, always."
Ulmer changed up his team's routine with the two-set lead, looking to avoid a repeat of Friday night when USC rallied to win the third and fourth. Ulmer kept his remarks to the team brief and sent them back onto the court with time left in the set break, to keep them focused. It paid off with another solid start, featuring kills by Bacon and Nuneviller to open the set. After UCLA forged an 11-11 tie, the Ducks scored four times in a row with a block by Bacon and Mutiri, a UCLA error, a kill by Nuneviller and one of three solo blocks in the match by Kiari Robey. Nuneviller finished off the match with a kill, completing what Ulmer thought was Oregon's best sustained effort since a season-opening sweep of Penn State.
"If we keep our attacking mindset, there's nothing that can stop us," Bacon said. "If we're in that mindset, the game plan becomes that much easier."
Who Stood Out: Nuneviller had 16 kills on .317 hitting and added 11 digs for her 14th double-double. Bacon and Robey held down the middle with 14 combined kills and six blocks, each hitting over .600. Setters Elise Ferreira and Kylie Robinson combined for 38 assists with eight digs and two aces, and Murphy had 10 digs.
Up Next: The Ducks play at Washington State on Thursday (6 p.m., Pac-12 Insider).