Win Streak 11 After Reverse Sweep
EUGENE, Ore. — The target on Oregon volleyball is glowing bright red these days. The Ducks aren't letting that get in the way of an historic winning streak.
The UO women extended their program-record winning streak in conference play to 11 matches Sunday, and remained a perfect 11-0 this season at home with a five-set win over Southern California. The No. 12 Ducks needed to battle for their second reverse sweep in four matches to do it, but ultimately came away with a 21-25, 23-25, 25-20, 25-20, 15-12 victory before 1,993 fans in Matthew Knight Arena.
The Ducks (21-5, 15-3 Pac-12) got a career-high 29 kills from freshman Mimi Colyer, who led a diverse attack that resulted in a career-high-tying 62 assists from setter Hannah Pukis. Skylar Fields had 27 kills to lead USC, which hit .359 for the match but couldn't keep up with Oregon's .429 hitting on the afternoon.
"USC played fantastic — they were great, and I thought they elevated our level of play," UO coach Matt Ulmer said. "We had to, and that's what you're hoping for in this time of year, is that we can step up to that level and exceed it. And I thought we did."
Colyer hit .463 and exceeded her previous career high in kills by four. Brooke Nuneviller added 19 kills with seven digs, Karson Bacon had nine kills with five blocks, Gloria Mutiri added seven kills and Colby Neal provided four kills and four blocks.
"I don't think I have a bad choice," Pukis said after tying the career high of 62 assists she set as a freshman at WSU in 2019. "Every time it's a settable ball, I can go anywhere and have complete confidence in whoever's going to hit it. I think that's important.
"We talk a lot about gelling as a team. And so that cohesiveness is what makes us so good, what makes us able to come back like that."
How It Happened: Neither team led by more than a point in the first half of the opening set, with Nuneviller tooling a kill off a block at a bad angle for an 8-8 tie, then making it 9-8 on the next point. But after she pounded a ball down to the floor for another UO lead at 10-9, Fields had two kills during a 7-0 USC run to take control. The second set was similar — Nuneviller had three straight points for the Ducks in a back-and-forth match to keep them within 18-17 late, before USC broke a 20-20 tie with four straight points. The Ducks fought off set point three times but ultimately dropped the set to fall behind 2-0 in the match.
"We're generally a pretty decent defensive team," Ulmer said. "And I thought we did a lot of things really well and we just, they were just better on offense — and better offense is gonna beat better defense. I think that's in most sports. So we had to just keep siding out."
Set three was back-and-forth most of the way as well. Mutiri had two kills and a block with Neal as Oregon took a 12-10 lead, and Colyer had three kills in a span of five UO points as the Ducks took a late 21-19 lead. USC scored to get within a point, but this time it was Oregon that finished well. Colyer recorded another kill and then an ace, Nuneviller set up set point with a kill and Colyer ended it with another ace. Georgia Murphy had five of her 19 digs in the match during the third set, and helped Oregon play a clean set in serve reception to stay alive.
"Our passing really picked up after set two," Ulmer said. "And that was huge because now we're in system more, their middles have to respect ours more, and we're able to get our middles the ball."
Colyer had seven kills in the third set alone, and she outdid herself with eight in the fourth set. She had four kills plus an ace as Oregon shot out to a 9-3 lead, and then a powerful kill out of the back row to make it 12-4. The Ducks benefited from some luck when Nuneviller softly sent a ball over the net that scored for an 18-12 lead, and when Pukis bumped the ball over and it found the floor to make it 20-15. Another kill from Colyer made it 23-18, before Bacon finished off the set to force the fifth.
"I think we've gelled a lot better as a group and I think we're playing a lot better," Colyer said. "Hannah's getting our middles involved a lot more and obviously they're scoring, but that's also opening me up and just making everything more available. I just think we're playing a lot better as a team."
The Ducks trailed 6-4 in the fifth before creating some breathing room, with Colyer sparking a 4-0 run that ended on an ace by Murphy for an 8-6 lead. USC didn't go quietly, scoring three straight to forge a 10-10 tie. But a big block by Neal and Mutiri made it 12-10, Neal pounded a kill that deflected off a USC player and up into the arena scoreboard for a point that made it 13-11, and Colyer finished off the match with the final two kills for the Ducks.
Of the Ducks' nine kills in the deciding set, Colyer had three while Bacon, Mutiri and Neal had two apiece. The Ducks won the set without needing a kill from their three-time all-American Nuneviller.
"Karson and Colby were excellent; when we got them the ball, they were great," Ulmer said. "Gloria stepped up and started scoring. And so, they couldn't just leave to Mimi and Brooke as much. Every time they tried to, Hannah sniffed it out."
Notable: The Ducks have won 11 straight matches for the first time ever in conference play, and for the first time overall since 2016. … Nuneviller's 38 kills on the weekend gave her 1,443 for her career, seventh in UO history and just four behind No. 6 Lindsey Vander Weide (1,447, 2015-18). With two aces Sunday, Nuneviller reached 128 for her career, tied for fifth in UO history with Monica Camp (1984-87). … Murphy is up to 1,474 digs in her career, sixth in UO history and just seven behind No. 5 Teri Kramer (1,481, 1984-87). … Bacon's nine kills Sunday gave her 607 for her career, and her five blocks moved her into 10th on the UO career list.
UO coach Matt Ulmer
On matching up against USC's offensive firepower
"It's really hard to defend against them because they're so dynamic. There's not a great defense you can do to stop Skylar. Even when you make a great serve, she's right on top of you over the block and can move that ball around, and from the back row she's phenomenal. So I thought we actually put up a lot of really good blocks, and that didn't necessarily matter with her. So I was just trying to tell the team, like, you're doing a great job. And if she ever makes an error, a mistake, then we'll get that one."
On the diversity of Oregon's offense, particularly in the fifth set
"The only way you can win 11 in a row is by having a well-rounded team. All these teams are good enough to take out one or two people, or make it really hard for them. It's when you have the next answer. And sometimes we don't — sometimes our middles do struggle, or sometimes we get stuck in different rotations. But not tonight."
Up Next: The Ducks play at California on Wednesday before closing out the regular season at home Friday against Oregon State.