Beavers take out Ducks in five sets

Volleyball coach Jim Moore said all last week that Oregon State was better than its 9-5, 0-2 record showed.

He knew that his team would need to bring its best to defeat the Beavers in Corvallis. Still, the No. 7 Ducks seemed flustered and out of rhythm throughout the match and eventually fell to the Beavers in five sets.

“We knew they would fight for their lives tonight,” said Moore. “I’m disappointed with how we played, and we have to get better in practice.”

Just as they did last week against the Washington schools, the Ducks struggled early. Though they built a 4-0 lead behind two early kills from sophomore outside hitter Dana Stephenson, Oregon eventually lost the first set 25-21.

Stephenson and junior outside hitter Heather Meyers began the match strongly, but senior outside hitters Sonja Newcombe and Neticia Enesi struggled. Enesi went without a kill in the first set, while Newcombe hit .154 and only had one kill.

“We really haven’t been going out as focused as we should be,” said Stephenson. “The Pac-10 is very good this year.”

The second set proved to be even more intense than the first. Behind four more kills from Stephenson, three from Meyers, and two service aces by senior Amanda Westrick, the Ducks were able to take a 24-19 lead near the end of the set. Needing only one more point to tie the match 1-1, the Ducks surrendered two straight points before finally winning the set 25-21.

The Ducks exploded out of the gate in the third set, overwhelming the Beavers 25-10 and seemingly taking over the match. Star Beaver outside hitter Rachel Rourke was held to only three kills, and the match seemed all but over with the Ducks up 2-1.

Yet, the Beavers proved to have short memories. Down 17-14 in the fourth set, Oregon State unleashed six straight points and took a 20-17 lead. The Beavers never looked back from there, eventually winning the set 25-22 behind eight more kills from Rourke. All of a sudden, the match was tied 2-2, and the Ducks’ confidence was visibly shaken as a record-setting crowd of 3,576 rocked Gill Coliseum.

Oregon State’s wave of momentum continued into the fifth set as the Beavers took an early 6-2 lead behind four Rourke kills. After a time out, the Ducks calmed their nerves and fought back to a 9-9 tie.

The Ducks continued to roll from there and took a 14-13 lead, needing only one point to finish the match. Instead, Beaver outside hitter Ashley Eneliko came up with a clutch kill.
The Beavers reeled off two more kills to take the set 16-14 and the match 3-2.

“All we had to do was handle a free ball, and we don’t handle a free ball,” said Moore. “At 14-13, we handle a free ball and it’s 15-13, we win. But we don’t handle a free ball.”
It was an immensely frustrating match for the Ducks, particularly for Newcombe and Enesi.

Newcombe was clearly bothered by the subluxated patella she suffered last week, finishing with nine kills and hitting .022. Enesi also had nine kills and hit .150.

Among the strongest performances for the Ducks were those of Meyers and Stephenson. Meyers recorded a double-double with 20 kills (a career high) and 14 digs, while Stephenson totaled a career-high 13 kills to go along with six blocks.

“I’m proud of my performance,” said Stephenson. “My blocking was better than it has been, but still not what I really want it to be.”

Oregon State’s Rourke proved to be the story of the game, putting together a dominating performance laced with blistering kills. The 6-foot 5-inch senior from Australia finished with 29 kills, 11 digs, and a .359 hitting percentage.

“She’s good, she’s a great player,” said Moore. “We know she’s a great player. She beat us, but we’ve got to dig some balls, and we just didn’t dig balls.”

For the Ducks, it’s back to the drawing board as they prepare for a trip to the southwest to face Arizona and Arizona State.

“We have been out of rhythm and we haven’t been doing what we need to do every single possession,” said Moore. “That needs to change.”

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