Oregon libero Georgia Murphy put her body on the line, diving for a dig in the left block to keep a rally alive, as the Ducks mounted a comeback in the third set.
It had been 27 days since Murphy — the sophomore who hurt her shoulder in the Ducks match-up with American University — played a game in Matthew Knight Arena, and she looked determined to lead her Ducks to a victory.
The Ducks swept the Cal Bears, 3-0, on Friday.
In Murphy’s absence, Becca Morse filled in admirably, but Murphy’s presence in the arena is unmatched. She flew around the court in search of returning each attack that came her way.
“Georgia never lacks effort,” head coach Matt Ulmer said. “[Cal] tried to stay away from her tonight, but she found different ways to get involved on defense. She came through with some crucial digs for us at the end.”
Murphy was equally impressive in service. She got the Ducks rolling with three straight aces to start the second set.
Cal stood no chance as Oregon found numerous ways to tear apart its defense. Murphy stands at 5-foot-6 and she had no problem scoring; which left the Bears block susceptible to the height and skill of Oregon’s front-line.
Middle blocker Karson Bacon, and outside hitters Taylor Borup and Morgan Lewis, had their way in the second set. Their towering presence played a crucial role in allowing them to slam numerous balls outside of the Bears’ reach.
Borup mimicked Murphy, diving for a dig to set up a kill from Bacon. Then Borup and Lewis traded kills to give the Ducks a set point. Bacon followed them up with a kill of her own as the Ducks took the second set in dominant fashion, 25-13.
While Oregon was sloppy to start the first set, Murphy’s hustle play seemed to wake her teammates up and they bounced back with a strong second set.
Borup especially needed a wake-up call as she let two balls fall out of her reach, conceding points to the Bears.
After falling behind two sets to zero, Cal was primed to steal a frame from the Ducks. They pulled ahead 21-16, but the Ducks fought their way back.
Hansen’s kill finished the Bears off in the first set and her block capped off a six-point Ducks’ run as they took their first lead of the set.
Gloria Mutiri was impressive in the third set as well. She jumped above the net, slamming down Kylie Robinson’s set for a kill that would tie the score at 23. She then cycled into the serving spot.
Mutiri came through with consecutive aces to finish off the Ducks sweep of the Bears.
“Gloria works on that every day even though she doesn’t play that position,” Ulmer said. “I was really proud of her stepping back there and making two really nice serves.”
With a healthy Murphy returning to Matthew Knight Arena to patrol the middle of the court, the Ducks improved to 13-2 on the season and 4-1 in conference play. They host Stanford on Sunday at 12 p.m.