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Oregon Volleyball Sweeps In Honolulu

The Ducks come out swinging in their non-conference openers

Syndication: The Register Guard Chris Pietsch/The Register Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Oregon Ducks volleyball played over the weekend at the Raindow Wahine Classic, hosted by the University of Hawai’i Rainbows. Featuring matches against San Diego, Northwestern, and host Hawai’i, it was criminal that there was absolutely no telecast at all for the first two matches, with only last night’s match against Hawai’i being shown on ESPN.

Oregon head coach Matt Ulmer, ahead of season scheduling, asked his team what they wanted to do. Do they want to schedule non-conference aggressively? Does the team want to prove themselves from the first game? Are they willing to put the time and effort to take care of business so that they can host a regional? The team responded positively and emphatically, and this is a big reason why the Ducks are not playing at home at all during the non-conference portion of this season. Ulmer said, “I asked the team when we did scheduling: What do you guys want to do? Because it’s not up to me to make this, guys have to want to work to play this type of schedule, right?...To be at this level, and if we’re gonna do it then I want to know that we’re all in it. They didn’t even bat an eye - they looked at each other, and they said Yeah, this is what we wanna do.”

ATQ-EXCLUSIVE Volleyball Morgan L. Blackwell

On Friday, the Ducks battled against the #13 San Diego Toreros. San Diego was every bit the challenge that Oregon was looking for. The Ducks swept the match (25-21, 25-22, 25-13), but it really was not quite that easy in the first two sets.

In the first set, Oregon came out with a modest lead that, regardless, they would not relinquish. Kills by Mimi Colyer and Morgan Lewis set the tone, and while the Toreros played close to the score, they could not overcome the Ducks, and fell in the first set.

San Diego came back in the second set, and pushed Oregon uncomfortably. The second set is where SD showed why they’re ranked as high as they are. The Ducks were down early when San Diego built a five point lead, 5-10. They maintained that into mid-set and were leading 11-16, but Oregon came roaring back and tied the set at 18 with a 7-2 run. Down 19-20, the Ducks went on a 6-2 run to take the set, bookended by kills from Mimi Colyer.

Having established their rhythm, Oregon continued their surge and ran away with the third set. When the Ducks were up 16-8, the writing was on the wall for the end of this match. The Toreros would not be able to close the gap, and Oregon took the set, and match, 25-13.

Oregon’s height advantage was present all weekend, and San Diego ultimately could not match the Ducks, scoring just one block to Oregon’s 13. The Ducks shot .341 to .062 for San Diego. Mimi Colyer led the team with 15 kills, nine digs, and three blocks. Morgan Lewis also had a fine game with nine kills and four blocks. Hannah Pukis narrowly missed a double-double with 30 assists and eight digs.

The only negative to be had in their season opener would be the 12 service errors by the Ducks. That’s 12 free points for the opposition, and it’s a testament to how good these Ducks are that they can shake that off and sweep a top-15 team.

ATQ-EXCLUSIVE Volleyball Morgan L. Blackwell

On Saturday night, Oregon faced the Northwestern Wildcats. The Wildcats had taken host Hawai’i to five sets before losing their opener (and would defeat San Diego on Sunday night). Northwestern volleyball is currently embroiled in a hazing scandal, so they are playing well given the distractions in the program.

Unfortunately, playing well was not good enough against the Oregon machine, and the Ducks swept Northwestern 25-14, 25-17, 25-18. The Wildcats only had one-point leads very early in the 2nd and 3rd sets before being swatted aside by Oregon.

The Ducks hit .421 on the night and held NW to .099. Oregon had eight blocks to two by the Wildcats. Oregon also ended with 10 service errors to four for Northwestern, but had five aces to the Wildcats’ three.

Mimi Colyer led the way again with 16 kills on .333 hitting. Morgan Lewis hit .571 with nine kills, and Kara McGhee hit .500 with six kills. Hannah Pukis again just missed a double-double with 34 assists and nine digs. Georgia Murphy was more active tonight on defense with 11 digs.

ATQ-EXCLUSIVE Volleyball Morgan L. Blackwell

Oregon faced the Hawai’i Rainbows in front of a live ESPN telecast last night. The Rainbows had defeated both San Diego and Northwestern on Friday and Saturday. They are a disciplined team that attacks and defends well, but like the other teams Oregon faced this weekend, were at an athletic and height disadvantage that could not be overcome.

Here were the starters for the weekend:

The Ducks and Rainbows played neck-and-neck in the first set. Hawai’i built a modest lead into the middle of the set and was up 10-14, and before you knew it they were tied at 19-all before the Ducks took the first set 25-21. Oregon scrapped and clawed their way to the lead; bear witness to this great rally, capped by a kill from Kara McGhee:

Oregon had found their wheels by the second set. Hawai’i enjoyed a brief lead, but after the Ducks tied the set at 4-4, they not-so-quietly went about their business. Another incredible rally in the second set ended with Oregon asserting their height advantage:

The Ducks were in a groove and took the second set 25-21.

Much the same as the two teams before them, the Rainbows kind of fell apart in the third set and did not have what it takes to mount a comeback against these Ducks. After a 3-3 tie, the Ducks asserted themselves and built a lead that Hawai’i could not bridge. One of the biggest challenges facing teams that are playing the Ducks is having to figure out their star setter, Hannah Pukis. She is one of the best - if not the best - setters in the country. Pukis does not telegraph where the ball is going (and even fooled Morgan Lewis in the third set), and it’s extremely difficult to be ready for every weapon that Oregon is throwing at you.

By “every weapon”, we also mean Hannah Pukis herself.

Oregon’s height advantage could not be more evident than on Match Point, with the Karson Bacon-Morgan Lewis block to take it all.

Hawai’i played more competitively than Northwestern and San Diego, but could still only muster .113 hitting to Oregon’s .252. The Rainbows also blocked better, with five blocks to Oregon’s 10. The Ducks’ serving game was better tonight, with five aces and six service errors, to zero aces and three SE for Hawai’i.

Mimi Colyer again led the way with 17 kills on .222 hitting and three digs. Gabby Gonzales made noise in the match, ending with eight kills on .238 hitting, with eight digs. Georgia Murphy led the way defensively with 13 digs, while Hannah Pukis finally notched the double-double that had been eluding her all weekend, scoring 37 assists and 10 digs.

With the weekend sweeps, Oregon volleyball has risen to #6 in the AVCA rankings. They next defend that ranking this coming weekend at the San Diego State Invitational, where they will take on San Diego State, UC Santa Barbara, and Pepperdine.