For weeks, head coach Jim Moore was forced to repeat the same lines regarding his team’s struggles. They were “out of rhythm” and “out of sync,” which
explained their up-and-down play.
Now, after wins this weekend against No. 14 California and No. 5 Stanford, the women’s volleyball team finally seems to have found a steady pace.
“These wins give us a lot of confidence,” said freshman libero Kellie Kawasaki. “We’ve been working hard to try and play more together in practice, and it showed.”
Stanford came into McArthur Court on Saturday with a great deal of confidence. The Cardinal had defeated Oregon State the night before, and was just a week removed from a stunning win over then-No. 3 Washington. It also had 20 years worth of history on its side, as Oregon had not defeated Stanford since 1989.
But this time, the Ducks were ready to forget the past and focus solely on the point ahead of them. Moore had stressed a “next point” approach all week in practice, and it paid dividends for the Ducks in the five-set win.
“All that matters is that we focus on everything one play at a time,” Moore said. “There is no score, there are no standings. We just need to be focused on the one play that’s right in front of us, and that’s what we did a really good job of this week.”
“We had to battle, and it was a huge team effort,” said senior outside hitter Sonja Newcombe. “We just had to focus on each point and go from there. Everyone did a great job of staying composed and business-like and keeping their emotions in check until
Newcombe played her role to perfection against the Cardinal, tying a career-high with 26 kills while also totaling a career-high 24 digs and hitting .362. Eight of her kills came in a crucial fourth set, which tied the match at two.
“Sonja played ridiculous,” Moore said. “Twenty-six kills and 24 digs against a team like this is amazing.”
Newcombe wasn’t the only player to step their game up against Stanford. Senior middle blocker Neticia Enesi hit .514 with 21 kills, senior setter Nevena Djordjevic had 63 assists and 13 digs, and Kawasaki added a season-high 19 digs. Freshman outside hitter Katherine Fischer was also a key contributor with career highs in kills (12) and digs (16) to go along with three aces.
“Everybody did some great things,” Moore said. “I’m very, very pleased.”
On Stanford’s side, junior outside hitter Alix Klineman had 24 kills and 10 digs, junior outside hitter Cassidy Lichtman had 16 kills, 17 assists and 17 digs, and senior middle blocker Janet Okogbaa added 15 kills. But their efforts were not enough to defeat a
determined Oregon team.
Friday’s win against California came in easier fashion, as the Ducks cruised in straight sets.
“It was a great game,” Enesi said. “Everyone stepped up and played their hardest and even though we struggled the last couple games, we were definitely on it tonight. We came back.”
Enesi and Newcombe were again instrumental to the team’s success in this match. Newcombe had a team-high 13 kills and a .545 hitting percentage, while Enesi hit .667 and had 11 kills of her own. Djordjevic had 39 assists and four service aces, and junior outside hitter Heather Meyers added nine kills.
“We’re a good team,” Djordjevic said. “We’ve been practicing really hard this week, and it paid off. We just gave our best and played as hard as we could, which showed.”
Djordjevic served during what proved to be a key sequence in the match. The set was tied at 7-7 when Djordjevic took the ball, and minutes later the Ducks had taken full control with eight straight points.
“The whole goal of winning matches is not to allow runs,” Moore said. “The other goal to win matches is to get runs. It started with Nev (Djordjevic’s) serve. Nev served very, very tough in that run, and that helped a lot.”
It was the Ducks’ smoothest win in weeks, and they also managed to keep the Golden Bears’ star outside hitter Hana Cutura relatively in check. The senior from Croatia had 13 kills but seemed noticeably out of rhythm at times. Senior middle blocker Mindi Wiley was the Golden Bears’ other key contributor with eight kills and a .727 hitting percentage.
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