Two big opportunities

Shawn Hatjes

With the Pacific-10 Conference season just about halfway through, now would be a perfect time for the No. 14 women’s volleyball team to start a long winning streak. They will have an opportunity to do so in two key home games against No. 18 Arizona and Arizona State this weekend.

“We have four weekends left of Pac-10 play,” head coach Jim Moore said. “We know the things that we have to get better on, and I think we’re actually moving in that direction. We just need to keep getting better.”

Serving and passing have given the Ducks problems in the last few weeks, and Moore stressed that the team would have to improve in those areas to succeed this weekend.

“We have to make sure we’re serving and passing at the level that keeps us in the match,” Moore said.

Indeed, serving proved to be a key issue in the Ducks’ loss at Arizona on Oct. 10. Oregon had 11 service errors, while also giving up 11 service aces to the Wildcats.

“We were horrible down there,” Moore said. “Just absolutely bad. That’s uncommon for us. We just had a bad day.”

Oregon’s passing was not much better in Tucson, and the Wildcats hit .302 as a team in a 3-1 win. Senior middle blocker Jacy Norton hit .692 with 10 kills, while junior middle blocker Stephanie Snow totaled 11 kills with a .500 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitters Tiffany Owens and Whitney Dosty tied for the team lead with 13 kills.

“I think their right side hitting really affected us,” junior outside hitter Heather Meyers said. “Every time they set back we really struggled. And just passing — they served balls in the court and we just didn’t focus on our passing.”

As good of a team as Arizona is, the Ducks know that many of the struggles they had against Wildcats came on their own side of the court.

“I think we’re mostly going to have to focus on our side of the net,” senior outside hitter Sonja Newcombe said. “I don’t think they did anything specifically that gave us trouble, we just need to come in and be focused and ready to play.”

“The good part about this is that we’re trying to figure out things that we know we’re capable of doing and have done earlier in the year,” Moore added.

Arizona currently sits just one place behind Oregon in the Pac-10 standings and is coming off a 3-1 victory over then-No. 21 Washington State.

“They have some weapons, and they’re good,” Moore said. “It’s not that we’re ignoring Arizona, but if we take care of our side of the net then we can focus on what the other team is doing.”

The following day, the Ducks will look for a season sweep over Arizona State. The Sun Devils are stuck at the bottom of the Pac-10 standings and have just two conference wins. The Ducks swept them 3-0 during their first meeting in Tempe, but they also know that this is not a match to take lightly.

“It’s something we need to not overlook,” Newcombe said. “We need to not get too comfortable. They’ve given us trouble in the past, so we just need to make sure that we focus on our side of the net.”

“They’re still a tough team,” Meyers said. “We still have to play our game, because if we don’t then they can definitely beat us.”

Meyers led the Ducks with 14 kills on Oct. 9 against Arizona State, while Newcombe hit .333 with 11 kills and 8 digs. Sophomore outside hitter Dana Stephenson hit .714, and freshman libero Kellie Kawasaki had 16 digs. Oregon held Arizona State to a mere .069 hitting percentage, and out-dug the Sun Devils 48-26.

The Sun Devils earned their first win in over a month against then-No. 21 Washington State on Oct. 30. Junior outside hitter Sarah Reeves had 19 kills and eight digs, while sophomore outside hitter Sofie Schlagintweit had 15 kills of her own. That brief swing in momentum was quelled the next day when Washington swept Arizona State 3-0.

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