NCAA Tournament Preview: Oregon faces Atlantic-Sun conference champs Kennesaw State in first round

There have been many reasons for Oregon to celebrate this season.

Beginning with a seven-match winning streak, a No. 8 ranking in the AVCA, and Maggie Scott’s 3,000th assist, the Ducks concluded conference play with two All-Team Pac-12 players and earned their seventh straight ticket to the NCAA Tournament. And on Thursday, head coach Matt Ulmer signed a four-year contract, keeping his position through the 2021 season.

It’s been a season for the record books as the Ducks look to work in a congruent postseason with the NCAA Tournament beginning on Friday for Oregon.

Oregon (17-11, 10-10 Pac-12) is one of nine teams representing the Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks will battle Kennesaw State on Friday at 3 p.m. in Provo, Utah. If they advance, the Ducks will have a chance at playing either No. 13 BYU or American on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Kennesaw State (21-4, 13-1 ASUN) enter its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance riding a 12-match winning streak, which includes the program’s first Atlantic Sun Conference Championship victory. The team averages 13.5 kills and 15.5 digs per set.

“Kennesaw State is a very good team,” Ulmer said. “Not a lot of people know about them, but I have been following them all year. I think they are really disciplined and they fight hard, they go for everything. They are a really good team and I think people are going to take notice of them after this match.”

The Ducks will be led by senior Taylor Agost and sophomore Ronika Stone, both named to the All-Pac-12 team on Tuesday, after earning honorable mentions last season.

Agost set a multitude of career-bests in her senior year as she played a sixth-rotation role for the first time since high school. She leads the Ducks with a career-best 2.98 kills per set and saw a career-high 25 kills on multiple occasions. Agost was Pac-12’s offensive player of the week during the last stretch of the preseason and the Nike Classic tournament’s MVP.

“It’s been awesome,” Agost said reflecting on her final collegiate season after Senior Night on Nov. 22. “Coming here and finishing the way I finished and being not just a different player, but a different person, I feel like I’ve grown so much and that’s the best part.”

Stone, a Pac-12 All-Freshman team honoree last season, concluded the regular season ranked second in the Pac-12 in hitting percentage. Her mark, 0.370, is the fourth best in UO single-season history. She leads the Ducks with 0.28 aces per set, ranked 10th in the Pac-12. Stone was also the MVP of the Oregon Classic Tournament.

Junior Lindsey Vander-Weide and sophomore Jolie Rasmussen are All-Team Pac-12 honorable mentions. Agost, Alex Hojnar, Willow Johnson, Rasmussen, Scott, Stone, and Vander-Weide earned Pac-12 all-academic honorable mentions.

The Duck go into the tournament ranked No. 22 in the RPI, following being in the top 10 for more than half the season. The team is currently second in the Pac-12 with a 0.263 hitting percentage and third with 1.27 service aces per set.

Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni 

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Maggie Vanoni

Maggie Vanoni

Maggie is a senior sports reporter for the Emerald covering football, volleyball, men's basketball, men's tennis, track and field and softball. She is a lover of adventures, the Oregon Coast, writing and Ben and Jerry's. Follow her on Twitter at @maggie_vanoni and reach her at [email protected]