Newcombe carries Ducks past OSU
After three years dominating the Civil War, Sonja Newcombe simply couldn’t bear the thought of a season sweep at the hands of Oregon State. As she has done so often in her career, the senior outside hitter put together an outstanding 29-kill performance to lead the No. 15 Ducks to a 3-1 victory over the Beavers Friday night.
“They were definitely under my skin,” Newcombe said. “I wasn’t about to leave some unfinished business, so I’m glad we took care of it.”
The Ducks knew that Oregon State would be playing with a sense of urgency after four straight defeats, and a thrilling first set proved just that.
The Beavers took an early 16-12 lead behind four kills from senior outside hitter Rachel Rourke. The Ducks bounced right back, and a 5-0 run put them ahead 19-17. Oregon State appeared to have the set in their hands after taking a 24-21 lead, but the Ducks would have none of it.
Junior outside hitter Heather Meyers cut the Oregon State lead to two with her third kill of the set, and a Beaver attack error made the score 24-23. Oregon State took a timeout, but that could not stop Newcombe from tying the set at 24 with a powerful kill. A block by Meyers and senior setter Nevena Djordjevic gave the Ducks a 25-24 lead, but the Beavers would not quit and tied the score with a block of their own.
From there, the set turned into a back-and-forth battle of wills as the teams traded points. Rourke almost single-handedly kept the Beavers alive until the Ducks finally won the set 39-37.
Head coach Jim Moore’s one-point-at-a-time approach proved to be key in the marathon first set.
“Our coach always emphasizes how it needs to be 0-0,” Meyers said. “I think that’s what we did really well this game. We can’t think about the score, we can’t think about if we’re winning, we can’t think about if we’re losing.”
As disappointing as the first set was for the Beavers, they refused to quit in the second. Rourke tallied eight more kills, and Oregon State tied the match 1-1 with a 25-21 win.
The momentum swung again in the Ducks’ favor during the third set. Newcombe and Meyers combined for 11 kills, and Oregon eventually won the set 25-22.
With a win just a set away, Newcombe caught fire in the deciding fourth set. Her 10 kills offset eight more from Rourke, as Oregon went on to take the set 25-21 and the match 3-1. Fittingly, the deciding point came off a Newcombe kill.
“We didn’t play as well as I thought we should have,” Newcombe said. “I’m real happy with how we came back and fought through a couple deficits, and obviously pulled it out in the end.”
For her part, Newcombe could not have played much better. The senior hit .364 with a career-high 29 kills to go along with 14 digs. Her performance nearly matched that of Rourke, who also had a career-high with 36 kills.
Moore could not have been more impressed with Rourke, who almost single-handedly carried the Beavers throughout the match.
“Rourke is an unbelievable player,” Moore said. “When she plays like that, I don’t know if there’s anybody that can stop her.”
Still, Moore emphasized that Newcombe’s performance should not go overlooked.
“Sonja hit .364, and (Rourke) hit .229,” Moore said. “So Sonja with 29 kills hitting .364 is pretty special.”
Newcombe’s play helped make up for the struggles of some other players. Senior middle blocker Neticia Enesi uncharacteristically hit -.036 with only 8 kills, while freshman outside hitter Katherine Fischer hit .000 with six kills and the team as a whole hit just .197.
“It’s the first time at home (Neticia’s) struggled,” Moore said. “She got herself tight to the net, and just didn’t have real good rhythm.”
Though the final results of the match were undeniably satisfying for the Ducks, they are trying to not take too much away from it, particularly with the second half of the Pacific-10 Conference season looming on the horizon.
“It’s not time to relax,” Newcombe said. “We’ve got to really step on the gas and get going from here on out.”
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