Oregon put up quite a fight against the second-ranked team in the country, but they eventually fell in four sets to Washington by scores of 23-25, 19-25, 31-29 and 8-25.
“I was real encouraged even after the first two sets – we gave them 11 points in game one and obviously if you don’t give them 11, you have a lot better chance of winning when you lose 25-23,” Oregon head coach Jim Moore said. “I’m excited after first two, so obviously I’m more excited after the third set and then we come out in the fourth set – it was real disappointing.”
Moore said the game would come down to serve-receive, and he was right as the Ducks struggled mightily with Washington’s serves, allowing the Huskies to get six service aces compared to Oregon’s two. It wasn’t the power of the serves that threw Oregon off, it was the depth and movement of the ball that never allowed setter Lauren Plum to distribute the ball to her outside hitters throughout the entire contest.
“I thought we served well,” Moore said. “We did well enough serving-wise, just didn’t sustain it.”
After trailing 8-4 early in the first set with numerous Washington points coming on UO errors, the Ducks used runs of 5-0 and 3-0 to climb within a point, 13-12. A kill by Oregon’s Liz Brenner knotted the game at 18 before the teams would swap points until the score was tied at 22. Washington took advantage of poor service receive and a serving error by the Ducks to win set one 25-23.
Set two started out the exact same way for the Ducks, trailing 5-1 early before getting on track. Kills by Ariana Williams, Martenne Bettendorf and Brenner tied the game up at 10, but that would be the closest Oregon would get. The Huskies steadily pulled away before a 5-0 run gave them a 19-13 lead, something they wouldn’t relinquish en route to the 25-19 win.
Brenner led the Ducks with five kills in the set while her counterpart, Washington’s Krista Vansant had six kills.
The third set began with both teams trading points. After a kill by Plum that tied the game at five all for Oregon, a kill by Brenner gave Oregon their first lead all match. The Ducks were in control, leading 16-12 before a 7-3 Huskies run tied the game at 19-19.
A service error by Washington gave Oregon a 24-23 but the Ducks returned the favor, serving the ball out of bounds and tying the game at 24. After a back-and-forth battle that saw each team go through its lineup on the court serving, Brenner served Oregon to straight points, giving the Ducks the 31-29 win and forcing a fourth set.
Washington proved why they are the No. 2 in the country in the fourth set. An Oregon service error on the first serve of the set gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead and they never let go of it. After a Brenner kill cut the deficit to one (7-6), Washington went on an 18-2 run to the end the match.
Oregon was thoroughly outplayed on the net, accounting for four team blocks while Washington accounted for 21.5 of them. Washington’s Melanie Wade and Lianna Sybeldon combined to record 20 block assists.
“All kind of sets outside the antennae, people swinging to just swing right into the block – if you get blocked 21 times, that’s everybody just not playing real intelligent,” Moore said of his teams struggles in the fourth set. “We could’ve set around the block, we could’ve hit around the block, we could’ve hit on top of the block – Liz did a good job of hitting around.”
Brenner led Oregon with a match-high 23 kills and Bettendorf added 15, but they both did it with hitting percentages of .125 and .044, respectively. Plum dished out a match-high 46 assists and Amanda Benson added 21 digs for the Ducks.
“If they’re the second-ranked team in the country, the first three sets we are right there,” Moore said. “I’d rather be trying to figure out how to go up than hanging on for dear life.”
Oregon returns to action Friday, Oct. 4 when they travel to Tucson, Ariz. to face the Arizona Wildcats at 7 p.m.