Ronika Stone dropped to the floor. She knelt, bringing her hands to her face to hide her immediate disappointment. Her swing had hit the Washington State back line and for all she knew, the match was over.
Head coach Matt Ulmer, saw Stone on floor and threw up his challenge card. Oregon would go on to win the challenge and tie the fourth set, 24-24. But the Ducks would still lose the set and ultimately, the match.
“Any time a team comes into your home and outworks you, that’s never a good feeling,” Ulmer said.
No. 20 Oregon’s 22-match winning streak against Washington State came to an end Friday afternoon as the Cougars claimed a four-set victory over the Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena. The Ducks (16-9, 9-8 Pac-12) fell to the Cougars (16-13, 5-12) for the first time since 2005 in set scores of 19-25, 22-25, 25-20 and 27-29.
“They were more comfortable in Matthew Knight than we were,” Ulmer said.
A lack of consistency throughout the court and shallow defense brought the Ducks their third home-court loss of the season.
“It’s been a struggle all year trying to understand how we can fight so hard in the last two sets,” Ulmer said. “We can’t just fight consistently the whole time. We continue to just go up and down with our engagement in a match.”
The match started with heavy pressure from the Cougars with an early 6-0 run and in set two, the Cougars took control and played through a 9-1 run. The momentum briefly shifted as the Ducks won the third set.
The teams responded quickly in the fourth set through back-to-back points as they reached double-digit scores. Through six unanswered points, Washington State turned on the pressure, finding a four-point lead.
With the match victory on the line, the Cougars saw their first match point slip away as Oregon won a ball challenge and brought in a tie at 24-24. The Ducks, ready to battle for a fifth set, got the crowd on their feet, as both teams began a series of match points.
After continuous back-to-back points, a lost ball challenge for Washington State and three match points, the Cougars took the match victory in 29-27.
On the slim upside of the loss, three Ducks ended with double-doubles and two with career-highs.
Taylor Agost led with a career-high 25 kills along with 10 digs, marking her fourth double-double. Maggie Scott ended with her sixth double-double on 47 assists, a season-high, and 10 digs. Jolie Rasmussen earned her third double-double, 13 kills and 11 digs. Ronika Stone ended with a career-high 18 kills.
After intermission and down 0-2, the Ducks took set three. Oregon kept ahead throughout the set and saw multiple unanswered runs, for a lead as big as six.
“We talked about what we needed to fix and certain things we needed to change,” Agost said of what brought the team a surge of energy into the third set. “But most of all just about us and bringing out our fight and being more disciplined. I think we did a better job about that in set three.”
The Ducks will remain at Matthew Knight Arena with their next match against the No. 10 Washington Huskies on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni