Recap written by Rob Moseley, Editor-in-Chief (GoDucks.com)
EUGENE, Ore. — Oregon smashed the Matthew Knight Arena attendance record and also its in-state rival Friday, as the No. 6 UO volleyball team swept Oregon State before 7,334 fans in the Ducks’ Pac-12 Conference opener.
The UO women (11-1, 1-0 Pac-12) weathered a tough first set before dominating the final two in a 25-20, 25-15, 25-14 victory. It was Oregon’s seventh victory via sweep this season, and came before a record crowd that easily surpassed the previous mark of 6,210, for a match against California on Oct. 7, 2011.
Playing at home after four straight weeks on the road to open the season, Oregon hit .184 in the opening set Friday, before settling in to hit .300 and then .379 over the final two sets of the match.
“I really think it was important for our group to feel the love tonight, after being away from everybody for so long,” UO coach Matt Ulmer said. “And I thought our group was a little shell-shocked by the crowd at first, a little tight. But we settled down and played our game, and I thought we did a lot of really good things.”
How It Happened: The Beavers took advantage before Oregon settled in during the opening set. Oregon State scored four straight points to lead 10-7, and though two kills each from Morgan Lewis and Kara McGhee got the Ducks back to a tie at 11-11, two more OSU points put Oregon back in a hole. Oregon last trailed at 19-18, before finishing out the set on a 7-1 run to win. McGhee had two more kills during that run, and she finished the set with five of her team-leading 10 kills in the match, to go along with six blocks.
“Having a great center like (Hannah Pukis) as a middle is super exciting, because it’s such a quick tempo (that) the connection is really hard to find sometimes,” McGhee said. “And so when you get it you have to feel super blessed. I think that we all have that with Hannah. I’m just super excited to be working with her for sure.”
The Ducks kept up the momentum into set two, racing out to an 8-1 lead capped by a block from Lewis and Karson Bacon. Mimi Colyer had Oregon’s next three kills as the Ducks went up 11-3, before the teams traded points back and forth to make it 12-5. At that point, the UO women showed they have grit as well as talent, winning a couple long rallies while out of system for points that put them ahead 16-5 and also 18-6. OSU fought back as close as eight, the last time at 21-13, but Bacon had a kill to reverse the momentum.
“(Some) teams can be full of stars, and then there’s those that maybe have a chip on their shoulder and they work really hard,” Ulmer said. “I want us to be both. And I think that’s what can make us different.”
Oregon was even more dominant in the third set. Two early kills by Lewis helped the Ducks get out to a 4-1 lead, and Colyer had an ace during a three-point run to lead 11-5. Kills by McGhee and Colyer and a block by Lewis made it 18-10, and Gabby Gonzales had two kills as Oregon scored the final five points of the night to clinch a sweep. That sent the record crowd home with a win, as the Ducks banked the experience of performing before a packed house.
“We plan on being on the biggest stage of all at the end of the year,” Pukis said. “So I think games like that are so important to be a part of, and I think it’s incredible — being able to respond to that so early in the season and being able to execute regardless of how many people are in the gym.”
Up Next: The Ducks go back on the road to play Sunday at UCLA (2 p.m., Pac-12 Los Angeles) before returning home to host UW and WSU next week.
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