SportsVolleyball

Ducks trying to bounce back



Blake Hamilton

A shocking loss to Oregon State last Friday may have thrown the Oregon volleyball team a bit off-course, but the Ducks are determined to bounce back this weekend in the desert as they butt heads with No. 22 Arizona (12-3 overall, 1-3 Pacific-10 Conference) and
Arizona State (11-5, 1-3).

The intensity has been dialed up in practice all week, and players and coaches alike seem to agree that the harder the workout, the better.
 

“It goes by so much faster,” sophomore outside hitter Dana Stephenson said. “We all are so much happier, even though we’re working much harder.”
 

Head coach Jim Moore was particularly pleased with the team’s practice to start the week on Monday morning.
 

“This is the best practice that we’ve had in at least three weeks,” Moore said. “It was a really good sign, and I’m pleased. We were more intense, we dug more balls, everybody was up and playing hard, and that’s the biggest thing.”
 

Defense has been an issue for the Ducks (11-2, 1-2) of late, particularly against Oregon State. Beaver outside hitter Rachel Rourke tallied 29 kills, and the Ducks struggled with digging the ball late in the game.
 

“We have to improve on defense a lot, which I’m sure we are capable of doing,” senior setter Nevena Djordjevic said. “We just need to dig balls and block more.”
 

First on the weekend agenda will be a showdown with Arizona State in Tempe. The Sun Devils have had a discouraging 1-3 start in conference and are coming off a five set loss to Washington State.
 

Still, no Pac-10 team is a pushover, as the Ducks learned the hard way last week. The Sun Devils are loaded with talented players, including outside hitter Sarah Reaves.
 

The junior from Glendale, Ariz. leads the team and stands second in the Pac-10 with 4.51 kills per set. Against the Cougars last week, she totaled 26 kills — a season high.
Oregon’s defense will have to be better, or Reaves could have a similar impact to Rourke’s last Friday.
 

The Ducks do have some fond memories of the Sun Devils from last year, as they swept Arizona State in both meetings in 2008. But the past is the past, and the Ducks are simply focused on regaining their early-season rhythm.
 

“We’re the same team,” Moore said. “We just need to get ourselves back in rhythm and focus on the play that’s right in front of us.”
 

After Friday night’s game, the Ducks will head to Tucson to play the Wildcats on Saturday. Like the Sun Devils, Arizona is off to a 1-3 start in the Pac-10.
 

The team has not won since upsetting No. 13 USC in four sets and will be happy to return home after a brutal weekend in Washington during which it did not win a set.
 

Despite their recent struggles, the Wildcats are ranked in the nation’s top 25 for a reason.
 

Junior outside hitter Tiffany Owens is fifth in the Pac-10 in kills per set with 3.88 and has gathered 198 so far this season. Junior setter Paige Weber is also fifth in the Pac-10 in assists per set at 10.39, and has 530 total this season.
 

The Ducks and Wildcats split their two meetings last year. Middle blocker Neticia Enesi played well in both games and hit an astounding .750 in the second matchup.
 

Of course, the past won’t matter when the Ducks take the court this weekend. Oregon will be focusing solely upon turning over a new leaf on a Pac-10 season that is still very young. In order to do that, Moore has emphasized taking every play very seriously.
 

“We’ve all learned that we have to get refocused,” Enesi said. “The next play — I think that’s getting engrained in my head. Just thinking, ‘next play, next play, next play.’ It’s always winning that next play and just thinking about what comes next, not what’s behind you.”
 

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