No. 21 Ducks Sweep No. 5 Stanford
EUGENE, Ore. — Feeding off an electric home crowd, the No. 21 Oregon volleyball team swept No. 5 Stanford in Matthew Knight Arena on Sunday.
The Ducks (8-2, 2-0 Pac-12) dug deep to rally from behind in the second set, and fed off that momentum to complete their first-ever home sweep of the Cardinal (25-19, 27-25, 25-17). Oregon has three-straight wins over Stanford for the first time in the series, having now taken eight straight sets off one of collegiate volleyball's all-time great programs.
"So proud of our group," UO coach Matt Ulmer said. "We played a really complete game. We played so tough, against a really good team. The environment was awesome. Just really proud of the way our group stepped up and played Oregon volleyball."
The Ducks outhit the Cardinal, .327 to .250, and had seven blocks to Stanford's four. Oregon had more aces and fewer errors from the service line, and the Ducks were able to sideout at 70.5 percent for the match, denying the Cardinal many sustained scoring runs.
"This was a big one for us," UO senior Brooke Nuneviller said. "We swept them on our home court in front of a massive crowd, and that's going to be a tournament-type situation. We're gonna have huge crowds; we're gonna play huge matches like that. And everyone is just preparing differently than they have in the past, both mentally and physically."
How It Happened: The Ducks continue to leverage their depth to great effect, with different leaders taking the spotlight at different times, and different role players stepped up on different days. In the first set Sunday it was Gloria Mutiri helping the Ducks get early separation. With Oregon leading 9-8 following a back-and-fourth start, Mutiri contributed to the Ducks' next four points, on two kills and two block assists. A kill from Nuneviller got the lead to 14-9, and freshman Mimi Colyer had kills for three of Oregon's final six points in the set.
"The fact that we came out strong the first set, that was great for us," Nuneviller said. "And I'm just most impressed by that second set, when we were down."
One of the rare sustained runs for Stanford on Sunday came early in the second set, when the Cardinal scored six straight points to open up a 10-4 lead. But Colyer had consecutive kills to get the Ducks within 12-9, and then Colby Neal contributed to blocks on the next two points as Oregon clawed back within 12-11. With Stanford up 22-18, Colyer kept Oregon alive with a kill, Neal contributed to another block and Daley McClellan served an ace to make it 22-21.
It was 24-21 when the Ducks drew the Matthew Knight Arena into the action. An error by Stanford got Oregon within 24-22, and a kill by Neal helped the Ducks fight off another set point. Colyer then served two straight aces for a 25-24 lead, before Stanford tied it to regain serve. As the crowd chanted, "Let's go Ducks," the Cardinal committed a service error and then Nuneviller completed the comeback as Oregon rode the crowd's energy to a 2-0 lead in the match.
"This is what you're gonna get from them if you show up," Ulmer said. "I think we absolutely fed off the energy. Stanford's a really aggressive serving team and so there's some risk-reward with that, and I think the environment probably doesn't help with that for them. So that was a total Oregon win."
The Ducks broke open the third set early, with Elise Ferreira serving an ace for an 8-6 lead and the Ducks using kills by Nuneviller and Colyer to go up 11-7. Kiari Robey then had two kills during a five-point UO run to lead 16-8. After Stanford closed within 20-16, another "Let's go Ducks" chant arose from the crowd, and another service error by the Cardinal followed. The Ducks finished off the sweep with another instance of back-to-back kills by Nuneviller and Colyer.
Who Stood Out: Colyer continued to make her case for being the Pac-12's freshman of the year with a match-high 15 kills, plus 10 digs. Nuneviller had her seventh straight double-double with 14 kills and 14 digs, Mutiri added seven kills with four blocks and Pukis had 35 assists with nine digs.
Four days after Reagan Hope came off the bench to spark a win at Oregon State, on Sunday it was Neal providing a spark at the net, with three kills and three blocks. The Ducks also benefited from the service pressure applied by Ferreira and some key defensive plays by McClellan during the second-set comeback.
"One of the hardest things I've had coaching, so far in my career, is this team," Ulmer said. "It's really hard because you have really great players that are out there, and I know that could be a really negative thing in your culture, in the locker room. But if we can take it as a real competition — pulling each other, pushing each other — then I think you can get performances like this. And you don't know when it's going to be your night, so you just have to keep pushing. You have to trust the process, and you have to trust your teammates. Today, that's what we saw. Can we continue to do that? I'm excited to see. But that's a great response from us."
What It Means: The Ducks have found a collective focus that is resulting in consistently strong performances, and that — if sustained — could result in a truly special season.
"We made it so difficult for them to score, even though they did a good job," Ulmer said. "I thought they had to make great plays to score; I don't think they got very many cheap points from us. I thought we played pretty clean. They had to make a good block, they had to make a good dig or transition, they had to make an excellent serve — it was hard for them to find points. And I think that's all you can do, is just try to make it as tough as possible on the other team to make plays. And if you just keep that pressure on, normally good things happen."
Up Next: The Ducks host Arizona State on Friday at 6 p.m.