Ducks Fall Short in First Top-10 Battle


PITTSBURGH – The No. 10 Oregon volleyball team suffered its first loss of the season on Wednesday night in the first of three straight matches against top-10 opponents, dropping a hard-fought battle to No. 6 Pittsburgh, 26-24, 23-25, 25-20, 25-22, at the Fitzgerald Field House.

How it Happened: The opening set was a back-and-forth battle from the start, featuring 19 total ties and eight lead changes. The Ducks (2-1) went on a 6-1 run to take a 6-4 lead, but Pittsburgh (7-0) fought back to move ahead, 12-10. After playing to a 22-22 tie, kills by Ronika Stone and Willow Johnson gave Oregon set-point, 24-23, but the Panthers responded with three straight points to win the set and take a 1-0 match lead.

The Ducks came out swinging in the second set, going up 5-3 before using a 6-1 run to make it 11-6. Pittsburgh rallied back to within 18-17, and then played to a 21-21 tie. The Panthers followed with two points in three rallies to take a 23-22 lead, but this time it was the Ducks who scored three straight to take the set and send the match into intermission tied at one set apiece.

Early miscues hurt the Ducks in the third set as Pittsburgh jumped out to a 16-11 lead. Oregon battled back with four straight points to get within one, but the Panthers responded with their own 4-0 run to take back control before holding on to win the set, 25-20, and earn a 2-1 advantage in the match.

The Ducks and Panthers traded blows for most of the fourth set, with Oregon holding a slight 15-13 advantage at the media timeout. Oregon led 19-17 and then 22-21, but Pittsburgh ripped off a 4-0 run to win the set and hand the Ducks their first loss of 2019.
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Who Stood Out: Johnson notched 13 kills and added 10 digs and two aces for her second straight double-double, but the Ducks’ all-American right-side hitter left the match late in the fourth set, when Oregon led 19-18, with an apparent injury. Stone hit .450 with 13 kills while adding seven digs and five blocks, and sophomore Brooke Nuneviller also recorded a double-double with 10 kills and a match-high 16 digs. Redshirt freshman Karson Bacon had flashes of excellence while tallying seven kills and a match-high eight blocks, including four solo, and classmate Kylie Robinson dished out 44 assists to go with six digs and four blocks. Freshman libero Georgia Murphy finished the match with 14 digs.

What it Means: The Ducks’ young squad went punch-for-punch on the road with the No. 6 team in the country while fighting through some self-inflicted mistakes and the late injury to Johnson, one of the team’s core leaders. Oregon will look to bounce back this weekend when the Ducks face two more top-10 teams at the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge.

Notable: Oregon racked up 13 blocks, led by Bacon and Stone in the middle, while holding Pittsburgh to a .156 hitting percentage … Freshman Jade Sadeiko, who joined the team in early August from her home country of Estonia, made her first career start and tallied two kills and an ace … The all-time series between Oregon and Pittsburgh is now tied, 1-1.

Up Next: The Ducks will bus to University Park, Pa., on Thursday to prepare for Friday’s 2018 Sweet Sixteen rematch with No. 8 Minnesota. Oregon will wrap the first week of its current two-week East Coast trip on Saturday against No. 4 Penn State.