Oregon offense struggles in 3-1 loss to USC

The last time Oregon dropped two matches in a row, it was the beginning of the season against Texas and Florida, and the team took the losses as a learning experience.

After that, for a while, the Ducks looked undefeatable, going on a 11 match win streak. They have a 12-4 record, yet after losing 3-2 to No. 20-ranked UCLA on Wednesday and to USC on Friday by 3-1, the Ducks are now 5-2 in Pac-12 play.

The Ducks looked like a tired team, unfocused and often sluggish. Their offense struggled, while their defense kept them in the game. They finished with 72 digs, 26 of which supplied by libero Amanda Benson, while USC finished with 66. Both teams also finished with 22 blocks; middle blocker Ronika Stone led the Ducks with six, one of them solo. She, along with Taylor Agost, also led the team with 12 kills.

However, all those blocks couldn’t stop Trojans outside hitter Khalia Lanier, who finished the game with 23 kills.

“(Lanier) had a great match,” said Oregon head coach Jim Moore. “They’re setting her every ball; she’s a good player.”

However, as Moore was quick to point out, she also had a .262 hitting percentage from 61 total attacks, not stellar by any means.

Many Oregon players also struggled with hitting percentage. Three of the Ducks’ best hitters, including Sumeet Gill, Willow Johnson and Lindsey Vander Weide finished below .100.

“We have been the best team in the conference, and maybe in the country at not getting blocked,” Moore said. “And all of a sudden, we just start hitting balls that anyone could block.”

Tied 24-24 in the first set, the Ducks needed two more points for the win. USC, however, was the first to strike with a block by right side hitter Brittany Abercrombie, who led her team with eight blocks. Oregon quickly answered when middle blocker Kacy Nady put down her first kill of the night. The Trojans and the Ducks traded points back and forth until a kill by outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide started a three-point run, giving the Ducks the win with a score of 30-28.

The second set was as tightly contested as the last, neither team allowing the other to take more than a two point lead until a four-point run brought USC to a 20-16 lead. However, Oregon was able to answer with a run of their own, yielding five points, four from kills and one from an ace from middle blocker Ronika Stone, Oregon’s fifth of the match.

Oregon and USC found themselves tied at 22-22 at the end of the match. To get the win, USC scored three unanswered points to finish with a score of 25-22.

Things got worse from there. Late in the third set, USC established a 22-18 lead before Oregon took a timeout. USC would go on to win the set 25-20, winning off of two kills, one from Abercrombie and one from Lanier.

“We’re not grinding it out,” Moore said. “We’re not getting tough.”

Oregon struggled in the final set, only tallying 12 kills. Tied at 20 apiece, USC scored four unanswered points, all from kills, to give them a dangerous lead late in the set. Two blocks won the game for the Trojans, finishing the final set with a score of 25-21.

The Ducks will attempt to end their scoring slump against Utah next Friday during their second road trip of conference play.

Follow Hannah Bonnie on Twitter @hbonnie03

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Hannah Bonnie

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