After facing and defeating two straight ranked opponents in Arizona State and UCLA, the Ducks faced their biggest challenge of the season as they hosted the top ranked USC Trojans Sunday afternoon. Oregon competed well but ultimately could not overcome their errors and USC's attack as they fell in straight sets 25-23, 25-18, 26-24. Oregon had more kills than USC 44-43 but 25 errors was their ultimate undoing. "We're right there," said Coach Jim Moore, "we just a couple little things here and there."
The Ducks did not appear to be in awe of the top ranked team in the country in the first set. While Oregon had been having trouble with slow starts, they came out swinging in the first set, outkilling the Trojans 18-17. Oregon led late in the set at 22-21 but USC's composure overcame the Ducks as they scored 4 of the next 5 points to come away with a win in the first set 25-23. The Ducks committed 7 errors in the first and giving a team like USC extra points can prove to be fatal as it was in the first.
The Ducks would stay tough against the Trojans in the second as they never fell more than 3 points behind until USC turned the corner to run away with the second set, 25-18 after Oregon pulled within 1 at 16-17. Oregon's attack dropped to .147 in the second as they hit into the block several times. USC was able to take advantage of Oregon's miscues and take a 2-0 set lead into half time.
Coming out of the break, USC looked to flex their muscle and took a 21-13 lead late in the set as Oregon appeared to be dead in the water. Back to back kills from Canace Finley would spark an Oregon comeback that would see them bring it all the way back to having their first set point of the match before surrendering 3 straight points as the Trojans took the final set 26-24. Amanda Benson served well in the crucial stretch, where she has improved greatly since the beginning of the year and Moore credits her for leading the comeback, "Amanda did a great job serving...because of the serving we blocked some serving. [I'm] definitely not displeased with our effort."
While the Ducks did not take a set, they played well and gave USC all they could handle. While moral victories count for very little, fans should take heart in this defeat. Listed as day to day, Lauren Plum could see her return to the floor sooner than later. At this point coach Moore says it all depends on how it feels to her. Oregon will look to bounce back against Colorado on Friday at Matthew Knight as Matthew Knight celebrates a pink out for breast cancer awareness.