Another home loss.
No. 16 Oregon volleyball lost its fifth Pac-12 home game in nine home conference matches. This time, it was at the hands of No. 19-ranked Utah.
Oregon was without freshman outside hitter Jolie Rasmussen, who has played a pivotal role for the Ducks’ blocking game along with offense. With Rasmussen’s absence, players had to step up in order for Oregon to beat a strong Utah team. Her absence was felt as Oregon hit 10 service errors in the four-set loss.
“With Jolie going out it changed the chemistry,” head coach Jim Moore said. “The chemistry was really good to start and we didn’t have good chemistry to start. We started flat and then all the service errors.”
In the first set, Oregon fell behind and Rasmussen vacancy was prevalent both offensively and defensively with Oregon’s defense looking uncoordinated. Utah hit four aces contrasting Oregon’s four service errors in Utah’s 25-22 first set win. Utah denied a late comeback from the Ducks.
“We were a little bit uncomfortable, obviously Jolie [Rasmussen] wasn’t in there tonight,” senior libero Amanda Benson said. “Our serve receive was a little uncomfortable at first. I think at home we have a little more distraction.”
Oregon hit at .235 percent with sophomore Lindsey Vander Weide being the most consistent player (five kills in 10 swings).
Oregon’s service struggles continued into the second set after Brooke Van Sickle hit an early service error, but Ronika Stone make her mark on the match with three kills and a couple big blocks, including a solo block.
Errors continued, tallying five service errors in the set and nine on the match. However, Oregon did not let up and hung on to win the second set 25-21 thanks to a set-clinching point from Taylor Agost that ended a lengthy rally.
As the match headed to intermission tied 1-1, Vander Weide led the Ducks with 11 kills followed by Agost with seven kills. Agost had to keep her efficient hitting going in order to fill in for the void left by the injured Rasmussen.
“Our defense was great but we weren’t transition well,” Benson said. “I think we just really need to work on transitioning and putting balls away and getting more kills.”
The third set stayed close from start to end and Utah came out on top, winning the set 26-24 in extra points. Oregon led the the set from 13 points but never ran away with the set.
Wednesday’s loss could not only hurt the Ducks’ ranking, but Oregon’s Pac-12 standing as well. In the must-win fourth set, Oregon could not get ahead of the Utes. The Ducks hit seven errors totalling 27 on the night.
Utah won the fourth set 25-15, clinching the match.
The absence of Rasmussen was evident as Vander Weide led the Ducks with 15 kills followed by Van Sickle, who hit a career-high 12 kills. Defensively, Benson dominated with 28 digs.
“We just have to take what we struggled with today and come out tomorrow,” Benson said.
Oregon takes on Colorado on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena.
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow