Oregon redshirt sophomore Brooke Van Sickle stepped out to serve. She bounced the ball a handful of times before serving it across the net. Moments later, Ronika Stone found the kill.
Van Sickle served again. This time a service ace tied Oregon with Portland State at 5-5. Another serve form Van Sickle was followed by another kill from Stone.
Still on the serve, Van Sickle responded with back-to-back service aces and forced the Vikings into a timeout. When play resumed, she served again and earned her ninth service ace of the match — the second-highest number of aces in a single match in Oregon history.
“Brooke is just such an athlete,” Oregon head coach Matt Ulmer said. “She has been serving really close to the line and she really likes to hit that ball hard …Those balls were humming, those are hard to pass. They’re like attacks.”
Van Sickle’s nine service aces propelled the Ducks to their first season victory; a three-set sweep over Portland State. Oregon defeated the Vikings, 25-15, 25-10, 25-13, Tuesday night for the team’s 2018 home opener at Matthew Knight Arena.
After dropping their first two matches last weekend at the Vert Challenge to No. 3 Texas and No. 2 Nebraska, Ulmer said he emphasized strategy over emotion to the team.
He said he was impressed to see more skill added to plays during Tuesday’s match.
“[I’ve] been really big on these guys to if it’s not a great situation, there is something we can do with the ball other than just trying to get a kill and muscle our way through it,” Ulmer said.
Stone showed she learned the lesson after last week’s matches, leading Tuesday’s match with 15 kills.
“Just realizing that we can’t have the ‘hero’-play every play, you’re not going to bounce the ball every play,” Stone said. “I think because of Nebraska and Texas, I wanted to be the hero of the game and volleyball is not that type of game … just realizing that having the creativity in the game and being able to accept shots is what will ultimately get me to score.”
Following Stone, Lindsey Vander Weide ended with her second double-double of the season with 11 kills and 12 digs. Freshman and starting libero, Brooke Nuneviller also had 12 digs. Senior August Raskie had two serving aces of her own and ended with 39 assists.
In the third set, the Vikings started by leading the Ducks by two, until Van Sickle slammed down her serving aces to tie the set at five. After that, Portland State couldn’t keep up and dropped the set 25-13, ending the match and losing for the ninth straight time to Oregon.
“It’s a great match for us, Portland State is a very good team,” Ulmer said. “They’re different because they’re not as physical but they’ll challenge your block more … I thought it brought a different type of challenge for us tonight.”
The Ducks took the second set quickly, winning 25-10 thanks to a 13-0 run. Oregon ended the set with 17 kills over PSU’s seven.
In set one, Oregon saw a 10-3 run and easily clinched the set, 25-15.
Oregon will take the win and use it for momentum in this weekend’s Oregon Classic. The Ducks start the tournament Friday at 1 p.m. against Utah Valley at Matthew Knight Arena.
Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter: @maggie_vanoni