Paskal: How far can Oregon volleyball go?
The American Volleyball Coaches Association released their weekly poll of collegiate volleyball teams and the Oregon Ducks once again found themselves slotted at No. 2, tying their highest ranking in program history.
The Ducks are now only ranked behind Stanford, the only team that has managed to defeat them this year, and head coach Jim Moore has his squad playing at an elite level. Oregon’s record overall is now 20-1, and they have won six matches in a row after losing their initial battle with the Cardinal.
Even in their defeat from Stanford, for which most of the team had been stricken with flu, Oregon managed to take the Cardinal to five sets and nearly escaped from Palo Alto, Calif., with a win.
The Ducks have played at an incredibly high level all year and have navigated the immensely competitive Pac-12 conference with ease. Oregon has won six matches in a row and has looked downright dominant against their recent competition.
Oregon is entering the final third of their season, so now seems like a good time to ask the question: How far can this team go?
The Ducks are on the verge of becoming a national title contender and have a legitimate shot to make a title run in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Oregon relies heavily on redshirt senior and All-American outside hitter Alaina Bergsma, who currently ranks second in the conference averaging 4.56 kills per set. Not only is Bergsma a dominant offensive presence, she provides leadership and a sense of calm consistency that could pay immense dividends if the Ducks were to fall down early in a match in the tournament.
Where Oregon truly separates themselves from other top-10 programs, and why they have a legitimate shot to make a final four appearance in the tournament, is because of the incredible season of setter Lauren Plum.
The junior from Poway, Calif., is leading the conference with 12.99 assists per set and her name has quietly risen into the conversation for National Player of the [email protected]@http://pac-12.com/portals/0/content/sports/volleyball-w/stats/2012-13/HTML/CONFLDRS.HTM#[email protected]@
Her growth throughout the year has not only paid dividends for her personal statistics, but as the “quarterback” of the Oregon offense, she has helped the outside hitters and the rest of the squad have incredible seasons as well.
Similar to the men’s basketball tournament, the NCAA tournament in volleyball is an unpredictable entity that rewards teams for getting hot at the right time.
However, if Jim Moore and the Ducks are able to maintain their success and stay focused on the task at hand, there is no reason to think that a 2012 final four appearance would be out of the question for them.
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