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Oregon Ducks Volleyball Loses To USC In Four Sets

Oregon continues to falter on the road

Morgan L. Blackwell

Oregon Ducks volleyball lost their third consecutive road match at USC, in four sets, 21-25, 25-23, 22-25, 19-25.

Again, Hannah Pukis was not to be seen. Also, while standout freshman Colby Neal was in uniform and on the sideline, she never entered the game.

Elise Ferreira, filling in for setter Hannah Pukis, has settled in to her role as the backup setter. I did not see the kinds of setting errors from Ferriera that I saw last weekend. Her play was outstanding. The Ducks lost on this night because of being not as sharp defensively as they have in previous games, and having no answer for USC’s star player, Skylar Fields.

Oregon’s defensive struggles were apparent from the first set, where they would be in proper position defensively and yet fail at a dig, due to ball velocity and/or spin. Early on, serves such as these proved troublesome:

Note that the dig was there, but flailed off-court. In the first set, Oregon had difficulty establishing its defensive composure, which was a surprise for this team - I’ve thought all season that Oregon’s defense has been an outstanding strength of this team. Their problems were evident in several USC points where the Duck defender was in proper position and yet could not navigate the dig, and the ball would jet off course. Sometimes the Trojan kill was excellently placed and the defenders had no chance.

Here we see a USC kill that is hard enough to defeat the Ducks’ attempt to block, and then is deflected in a poorly defended area of the court. This isn’t luck, because it happened much of the night.

Oregon adjusted in the second set, which the Ducks won and obviously outperformed the Trojans. In place for Colby Neal was Karson Bacon (another very, very good Duck freshman) who was playing through an apparent injury, as evidenced by the splinted and taped ring finger on her right hand. Regardless. Bacon battled through and brought great energy in the match.

Mimi Colyer won’t win Freshman Player of the Week this weekend - because the Ducks lost - but she is the best freshman in Pac-12 volleyball, win or lose. Every week.

Brooke Nuneviller was at her best on this night, which you would never know based based on the final score. She may be the kill and dig leader, but she’s also the field general for the Ducks. All night, she was guiding her Ducks in trying to squeeze out the victory. Oh - and also leading the Ducks when they needed it the most.

As good as Oregon has been defensively, USC was better. The Trojans also benefited from having veterans dictating the offense, in Skylar Fields and Kaylah Williams. Fields especially was a weapon the the Ducks could not contend with. She would deliver blistering kills but then would plop dunks behind the Ducks’ blockers, always understanding what was in front of her.

Note that Fields attacks from the USC left side. That side would prove to be an Oregon weakness for the rest of the match. The Ducks were not able to adequately defend the USC left side for the rest of the match and that proved to be their undoing. And it wasn’t just Fields; all of the USC attackers were finding paydirt in that position. Take this as an example:

Oregon attempted to respond. Really, Matt Ulmer is a fantastic coach and tried mightily to correct the obvious onslaught that he was faced with, but USC was the better team tonight. The Ducks just did not have an answer for USC’s left side attacks:

Without an answer, the Oregon Ducks dropped their third road match. This match strikes me as many a football game would - where one can bemoan the coach for not making adjustments and trying to win the game. No, Ulmer was definitely trying to win this match. He can only do what he does with the hand he gets to play with. That is not to say that the Oregon Ducks tonight are bad. The Ducks found themselves in a mismatch that they could not overcome; quintessential basketball, if you will.

Mimi Colyer was the kills leader tonight with 20. Brooke Nuneviller brought game with yet another double-double, with 12 kills and 17 digs. Gloria Mutiri contributed 10 kills on the night. Elise Ferreira had 50 assists, a number that is testament to her excellent play tonight.

Skylar Fields is USC’s superstar. She’s just that good and showed it tonight with 27 kills and a .400 hit percentage. USC was the better team offensively and defensively, out-hitting Oregon 63 kills to 55, and gaining the defensive edge with 55 digs to Oregon’s 49.

The Oregon Ducks next battle the UCLA Bruins. That match is on Sunday, 10/16/22 at 2:00 pm. The game is televised on ESPNU.