Oregon volleyball’s six-game win streak ended tonight in Pullman, as the Washington State Cougars defended their home court in five sets; 25-22, 26-28, 25-13, 18-25, 9-15.
Brooke Nuneviller established the tone early in the first set, with her third kill taking the Ducks to a 7-4 lead. A fair number of the early kills were of the dunk variety as opposed to a power kill. Setter Elise Ferreira (filling in for an absent Hannah Pukis) showed off a quick dunk early in the first set:
After being up 12-9, WSU fired off a five-point run to take the lead, 12-14. Oregon bounced back with a three-point run to take the lead 18-17, and would stay in front for the remainder of the set.
In the second set, the Ducks appeared to be in control for most of the set, having established a four-point lead several times up to being ahead 18-14. The Cougars, however, were not to be denied and clawed back, taking the set 26-28. Oregon did not have a second-set letdown. This was just a case of a very good volleyball team duking it out with the Ducks on their home court. Oregon had set point at 26-25, but attack errors by Mimi Colyer and Brooke Nuneviller coupled with a bad set by Ferreira doomed the second set.
In the third set, the Ducks looked like they were going to run away with the match. They opened up to an early 12-5 lead, and Washington State was not able to close the gap.
Oregon dug a hole of their own making in the fourth set; a hole that they would not be able to get out of. The Ducks seemed out of sorts and not sharp at all. This set had too many attack errors, and the five service errors committed by Oregon will generally not win a set. Every time Oregon would attempt a comeback, they would shoot themselves in the feet and stall any momentum. Take this as an example - the Ducks prevailed on this incredible rally:
Only to drop the next point on a service error. Oregon was never in the set and could not pick it up.
Oregon’s lackluster play followed them in the fifth set, where - after tying the set at 4-4 - the Ducks committed two of their three service errors of the set and were not a threat for the rest of the match.
There was no word regarding the absence of Hannah Pukis, but her absence was clearly felt. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Oregon’s plummet in the final two sets is because of Elise Ferreira; she is a very good setter in her own right. It takes an entire team to win, and it takes the entire team to lose as well. But with tonight’s match we got a reminder of how good Pukis really is and what her play means for this team.
Both Mimi Colyer and Brooke Nuneviller finished with double-doubles. Both had 20 kills, with Nuneviller contributing 13 digs and Colyer with 10. Elise Ferreira lead all Ducks with 14 digs, and Georgia Muphy brought 13 digs.
The Oregon Ducks, by and large, won the battle of stats in this match. They prevailed in kills, attack errors, blocks, and hit percentage. Where the Ducks lost was at the service line. WSU had 6 aces to Oregon’s 4, and the Ducks committed 15 service errors to the Cougars’ 8. Eight of Oregon’s 15 service errors were in sets 4 and 5. When you are playing close sets, that nine-point difference is the difference between winning and losing, as evidenced tonight in Pullman.
That Washington State played as tough as they did is not a surprise to the Ducks or their head coach, Matt Ulmer. Coach Ulmer said in advance that this weekend in Washington was going to be their most difficult weekend of the Pac-12 regular season. Regardless, Oregon will be admonishing themselves over this loss, because they let this one get away from them.
Oregon Ducks volleyball next travels to Seattle to face the Washington Huskies. That match is on Sunday, 10/9/22, and first serve is at 4:00 pm PT. The game can be viewed on the Pac-12 Network.