The Oregon Ducks prevailed on Saturday night against the Rice Owls, after sweeping the UC Davis Aggies on Thursday night. You can read the recap of the UC Davis match here.
The Ducks face five teams, to end their non-conference portion of their schedule, that reached the NCAA tournament last season. Rice was the first of the five, and they showed it. Their play was a level above what Oregon has faced thus far.
The first set showed the tenor of the match; both side traded leads and displayed great offensive and defensive play.
Mid-set, the Ducks built up a 19-15 lead, but the Owls then notched six straight points, aided in part by a couple of Oregon attack errors. That allowed Rice to build a lead that they would not relinquish, and Oregon dropped their first set 21-25.
Oregon played with purpose in this match, and after falling short in the first set they persevered in second set play. The second set featured the first of several incredible rallies by the squads, and while the Owls came out on top of one of the long rallies, the Ducks usually got the point.
Oregon built five-point leads at 17-12 and 21-16, and this time Rice was not able to overcome the Oregon leads. The Ducks moved and set the ball well, with five different players contributing kills.
Oregon kept the pressure up and took the second set, 25-21.
The Ducks were never behind in the third set, and cruised to at 25-20 win. Oregon built up an early 6-2 lead on a service ace from Mimi Colyer, forcing an early Owls timeout. Oregon’s setting by Hannah Pukis was outstanding, again distributing to the correct hitter time and again, and getting all that the Oregon offense could bring involved.
The fourth set was bookended by Oregon service errors to begin and end the set. There was bursts of great play by the Ducks, such as this block by Mimi Colyer:
But the Ducks were playing flatter this set, and didn’t help themselves with self-inflicted wounds. Oregon was not able to tie or take a lead, and fell 17-25.
As they did in set 2, the Ducks rebounded brilliantly against a Rice team that was playing to win. When Rice tied the game at 7-7, it was Colby Neal for the kill and the lead:
Although the Owls would tie again at 9-9, the Oregon offensive juggernaut would not be denied, and they took the final set 15-11.
After a relatively quiet outing against the Aggies on Thursday, Brooke Nineviller exploded in the Rice match, leading the Ducks with 20 kills while adding 15 digs to bring her to her 50th career double-double.
Also scoring a double-double was Mimi Colyer, with 12 kills and 11 digs.
Hannah Pukis had a double-double of her own. Her 52 assists and the way she distributed the ball was key to this Oregon victory. She also added 24 digs. Libero Geogia Murphy added 23 digs in some outstanding defense play, and Becca Morse contributed to the defensive effort with 10 digs.
All in all, Oregon has a lot to feel good about following this match. They overcame some adversity, some self-inflicted mistakes, and beat a very good Rice team. They’ll need that going forward, as the matches won’t be getting any easier from here on out.