Ducks will take on two ranked opponents when they welcome Washington schools this weekend
The last time Oregon volleyball played a top 10 team, they lost 3-1 to No. 10 Florida one day after they falling to No. 2 Texas by the same score.
“I thought we were incredibly ready; I was incredibly confident going in against Texas,” Oregon head Coach Jim Moore said. “We just were so inexperienced in that situation, we didn’t handle it well.”
Both of those losses came in August. Since then, Oregon has gone on an 11 match winning streak, completely dominating their opponents while doing so. Before dropping a set to Arizona State last weekend, they had won 19 sets in a row.
“It was a wake-up call,” Ronika Stone, who was just named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, said. “Ever since then, I think we’ve been pushing and are able to compete with teams at that high of a level.”
Now, the Ducks are more prepared to host No. 11 Washington and No. 9 Washington State this weekend, starting with Washington on Friday.
The Huskies started off their season undefeated, winning 11 matches in a row before finally losing to Washington State during their first conference match. Since then, Washington dropped another game to bring their Pac-12 record to 2-2, this time to Stanford, who is the top-ranked team in the Pac-12 at No. 5.
Despite that, Washington is still a formidable opponent, and Oregon has their work cut out for them.
“They’re a lot bigger than us,” Stone said. “With that, they are pretty good at blocking, so it’s going to be a challenge for us to try to get through their block.”
Washington’s block is significantly stronger than Oregon’s. Their top five blockers all have more blocks than any Oregon player, with the exception of Stone, who leads the team with 50 blocks. The Huskies are led by freshman Kara Bajema, who has 67 blocks, and junior Crissy Jones with 51.
As for their offense, junior Courtney Schwan and Jones lead the Huskies with 188 and 180 kills, respectively. Juniors Lindsay Vander Weide and Taylor Agost have 145 and 101 kills for the Ducks. Despite the fact their leaders have more kills, Oregon has more kills as a team than Washington does, not to mention a higher hitting percentage at .313.
“We know the rivalry,” said Stone. “We know how good they are.”
Though Oregon’s rivalry with Washington is arguably more intense than theirs with Washington State, the Cougars could potentially be a more dangerous team.
“In these situations, everyone’s energy is going to be up,” Moore said. “Is Washington a big deal to us? Yes, but it’s Washington State that’s 4-0.”
Overall, WSU is 14-2, dropping games to Baylor and No. 17 Purdue earlier in the season. Recently, the Cougars have been playing better than the Huskies, though they are 3-2 for away matches.
“Both teams serve and block really well, and that’s where getting all their momentum, all their energy,” Moore said. “So we’re going to have to pass really well, and we got to make sure that we do the things offensively, so we just don’t let them get easy points both in serving and blocking.”
For the Cougars, blocking is led by sophomores Taylor Mims and Claire Martin. They have 86 and 76 total blocks, respectively. On the offensive side, the team is led by senior Kyra Holt. She has significantly more kills than anyone else on the team with 218, while the closest person to her, sophomore McKenna Woodford, has 154.
Though it will be the Ducks’ first time playing against a top ten team since losing against Texas and Florida, they are more prepared this time around. The Washington game takes place on Friday, and Washington State is on Sunday.
Follow Hannah Bonnie on Twitter @hbonnie03
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