Ducks looking for Civil War revenge

Blake Hamilton

While most of the University’s gaze will be fixed toward Autzen Stadium this weekend, another chapter of a different rivalry will take place at McArthur Court on Friday night.

The No. 15 women’s volleyball team will face off with Oregon State for the second time this season, one month after leaving Corvallis with the bitter taste of a five-set loss. The Beavers will be highly motivated for a season sweep over the Ducks. They have lost four straight Pacific-10 Conference matchups and desperately need a win.

“They need this win, so they’re going to be going hard,” junior outside hitter Heather Meyers said.

“It’s been like that for the last three years,” said senior outside hitter Sonja Newcombe. “They always think that this is a really big opportunity if they beat us, and it could be a
significant win.”

The Ducks, for their part, are doing their best to stay away from the big picture and to treat this just like any other match.

“Every match is going to be really important for everybody,” Newcombe said. “So we treat it just the same, know that they’re going to be intense and just try to match that intensity.”

Though intensity will no doubt play a role in the match, the Ducks have been focusing primarily upon fundamentals in practice. Serving has become a concern for head coach Jim Moore, who feels that problems in that area were the main reason the team struggled in Southern California last weekend.

“We just didn’t serve very well,” Moore said. “We served in, but we didn’t serve tough enough to put pressure on our opponents. Therefore, (UCLA and USC) put pressure on us, because we just let them stand there and run whatever offense they wanted to run.”

Moore also sees set placement as an important issue heading into this weekend, particularly in terms of getting the ball to senior outside hitter Neticia Enesi and sophomore outside hitter Dana Stephenson. In the 3-0 loss to then-No. 18 USC, Enesi touched the ball only 15 times, while Stephenson was set 13 times. The Duck attack depends heavily on the play of these two hitters, and Moore knows they need to be more involved.

“It’s certainly a focus,” Moore said. “That’s one of the things we’re doing all the time, all week long, is figuring out how to get (Neticia) and Dana the ball.”

The Ducks will have to find a way to deal with a Beaver offense that features star outside hitter Rachel Rourke. The 6-foot-5 senior from Australia is fourth in the Pac-10 in both kills per set (4.52) and points per set (5.13), and leads the team with 348 kills overall.

Rourke simply dominated in the last meeting between Ducks and Beavers on Oct. 2, hitting .359 with 29 kills and 11 digs. The Beavers stunned the Ducks, recovering from a 2-1 deficit and eventually winning the match 3-2.

Particularly frustrating for the Ducks was that on paper, they played well enough to win. They outscored the Beavers overall by 10 points (107-97), while also hitting for a better percentage (.226-.214) and gathering more assists (63-59). Individually, Meyers (.400 hitting percentage, 20 kills, 14 digs) and sophomore outside hitter Dana Stephenson (.423 hitting percentage, 13 kills, 6 blocks) both played well, but their efforts were not enough. It was a heart-wrenching loss, and the Ducks are determined not to see a similar result this time.

“We don’t want to see as much frustration,” Moore said. “It’s not very much fun to beat someone by 10 real points and then lose the match.”

Though emotional wins often prove to be an indicator of good things to come, Oregon State has struggled mightily since defeating the Ducks. The Beavers have now lost four straight, and failed to win a set against then No. 18 USC or then No. 13 UCLA last weekend. Even Rourke struggled against UCLA, registering 11 kills but hitting only .083.

This, of course, has no bearing upon how Oregon State will play on Friday and the Ducks know this. After all, the Beavers were in a similar position the last time they faced Oregon. Washington State and Washington both swept Oregon State the weekend before Oct. 2. The Beavers came out desperate and hungry for a victory, and will likely do the same in this matchup.

The Ducks themselves are also coming off a disappointing weekend in Southern California and are itching to get back in the win column. On paper, the contest looks like it’s in Oregon’s favor. Yet, if the last meeting between these two teams proved anything, the stat sheet may as well be ripped to shreds.

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