Oregon has the current fortune of being blessed with incredible coaches, i.e Chip Kelly, George Horton, Paul Westhead. Volleyball head coach Jim Moore is no exception. Among the greats in the country as both a coach and a recruiter, Coach Moore has built the Ducks into a perennial tournament program. Last season featured a sweep of the Bay Area schools, a defeat of the #4 Fuskies in Seattle (that denied them the Pac-10 title, no less), and a second round NCAA appearance. The 2010 season looks to be a challenge, as the Ducks must replace the production of a number of graduating seniors. Details after the jump...
This year's Ducks will have to step up to the challenge of replacing Coach Moore's best recruiting class as the Ducks' head coach. Outside hitter Sonja Newcombe and middle blocker Netitia Enesi finished their careers ranked first and third in career points, and setter Nevena Djordjevic finished her career as the all-time leader in assists. The loss of Newcombe in particular will be felt, as she leaves the Ducks ranked in the Top 10 in kills, digs, and blocks. But this is by no means a rebuilding year.
The attack for the Ducks will be led by senior outside hitter Heather Meyers, second on the team in kills last year with 322. A starter since her freshman year, Meyers ranks third in career attack percentage at .286, and seventh in service aces with 113. Joining Meyers on the attack will be sophomores Katherine Fischer and Jocelyn Levig. Fischer started as a freshman last year, and racked up 197 kills and a .289 attack percentage. Levig played in 17 matches last year, registering 26 kills. A newcomer to watch is redshirt sophomore Alaina Bergsma, a transfer from Loyola Marymount. Last season at LMU, Bergsma was the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year, ranking ninth nationally in points at 5.24 points per set.
Replacing Enesi in the middle will be a more formidable task. 6'5" Junior Rhiannon Tooker saw limited action in seventeen matches last year, and freshman Ariana Williams also looks to play a role.
The job of setting up the attackers will most likely be handled by a true freshman, as Djordjevic was the only setter on the roster last year. But the freshman coming in are no slouches. Camryn Irwin was the 2009 Vancouver Columbian Athlete of the Year and an All-State second team selection, and Lauren Plum was a 2009 prepvolleyball Senior Ace (#35) and a 2010 Junior Olympics All-American.
Patrolling the back lines are returning liberos (liberi?) Kellie Kawasaki and Haley Jacob. Kawasaki ranked third on the team last year with 242 digs, with Jacob chipping in 100 more. Also looking to see the court is redshirt freshman Courtney Vaccarello.
The Ducks have a 54-3 non-conference record under Coach Moore, and look to continue that success with an ambitious non-conference schedule. The Ducks open the season at the Fresno State invitational, facing Santa Clara, UC Riverside, and the FSU Bulldogs. In September, they travel to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl Classic with Tulane, FIU, and Sam Houston St. The Pac-10 conference is once again loaded, with the Ducks tabbed to finish sixth in the Pac-10 preseason poll. A full schedule is available HERE.
The Ducks are reloaded and ready to take on all comers. The questions in the middle are being answered with talent, and Coach Moore has proven time and time again that he can get results. I would expect to see another NCAA tournament appearance, and with experience up front in Meyers, don't be surprised if Coach Moore's team makes a deep run toward a national championship.