Oregon volleyball tops Colorado 3-1 on emotional senior night
The matchup between Oregon and Colorado on Thursday ended in tears.
Not unhappy tears, but rather bittersweet ones.
During Oregon’s senior night at Matt Knight Arena, libero Amanda Benson and middle blocker Kacy Nady celebrated their final year as Oregon Ducks. After the game, their teammates thanked them through a video projected on the massive screen, prompting them to smile through tears they furiously wiped.
“This volleyball program has been the biggest part of my life,” Nady said. “I started playing volleyball really late so I am more than blessed to be playing here.”
For someone that only began playing volleyball as a junior in high school, Nady is a vital member of Oregon’s block. She tallied five kills and a team-leading seven of Oregon’s 16 total blocks.
When asked whether she felt it was important for her to contribute, particularly tonight, she replied, “Of course it’s important. I try to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Benson also helped lead the team’s defense. She tallied 28 digs, after becoming just the second Duck in history to pass 2,000 digs earlier this year.
Despite the team’s desire to give the seniors a good send-off, during the first two sets, Oregon looked much like it did in the loss to Utah the day before. Even though the Ducks won the first set 25-21, they were particularly error-prone near the end of the second set and finished with with seven attack errors and two blocking errors. Too many attacks went out of bounds that shouldn’t have. Three times in the set, Colorado tied the set off an Oregon error.
“It’s about our serving right now,” Oregon coach Jim Moore said. “Missed serves are not free throws, so you’ve got to attack serving.”
Luckily for the Ducks, Colorado just couldn’t return Oregon’s attacks. Colorado had only 13 assists and 11 digs to Oregon’s 19 assists and 18 digs.
It was the second set when Oregon really fell apart.
An eight-point streak that featured six kills, two brutal blocks and a service ace forced Oregon to use two timeouts and allowed Colorado to build an early 15-3 lead.
The streak was finally broken up by a kill from outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide, who finished with 20 kills to lead the team, but the damage was done. Oregon tried to fight back with little success as Colorado got the 25-20 win.
Oregon didn’t give up easily, though. During the third set, Moore opted to switch Taylor Agost to the outside and Stone to the right to compensate for Jolie Rasmussen’s absence. Rasmussen typically holds the outside position, while Stone occupies the middle.
“That helped significantly,” Moore said. “We just moved Ronika because we didn’t want to move two pieces so we wanted to leave Taylor where she was. … but it was much better to move the two pieces.”
After trailing for the first half of the set, a four-point streak propelled the Ducks to a 11-9 lead that they refused to relinquish. A service ace supplied by Vander Weide gave Oregon the 25-20 win.
“I felt like the team was playing for us,” Nady said about the game’s change of pace.
The fourth set played out much like the second set, except it was Oregon that established an early lead. The Ducks went on their own impressive streak, yielding eight points for an 11-3 lead.
Unlike the Ducks, Colorado wasn’t able to recover from Oregon’s early onslaught. The Ducks continued stringing points together, going on streaks of four and five points.
Now, Oregon will have to face three tough opponents in a row: UCLA, USC and Stanford. The games against USC and UCLA will be on the road, where the Ducks remain undefeated.
“We’re going to take all three days off,” Moore said. “It’s more a mental break than a physical break. We just kind of need it to regroup and recover.”
Follow Hannah Bonnie on Twitter @hbonnie03