Sept. 19, 2009

Courtesy of Oregon

DENVER – The No. 12 Oregon volleyball team raised its record to a perfect 9-0 with a 3-2 win over No. 9 Minnesota (7-3) Friday afternoon in the first match of the Pioneer Classic.

Oregon jumped out to a two-set lead after 25-22 and 27-25 wins – the second of which featured a 24-23 Gopher lead. UO responded by winning four of the final five points on kills by junior outside hitter Heather Meyers and senior outside hitter Sonja Newcombe and a game-winning service ace by senior Amanda Westrick.

However, Minnesota responded with 25-22 and 25-15 decisions, before Oregon came back with a decisive 15-10 final set win that included four kills by Newcombe.

“I told the team coming in that Minnesota will play hard every point, whether it’s three, four or five sets, and they did,” Oregon head coach Jim Moore said. “Heather pulled us along and played great. The fifth set came down our attitude, which was set by what Amanda, Heather and Nevena (Djordjevic) said in our huddle before the fifth set. They rallied the team, and I’m happy that the players took ownership of the situation. I told them that in the book ‘Outliers’ the author says that most plane crashes happen because the co-pilot doesn’t do their job – tonight the co-pilots certainly did their job.”

In her first appearance after missing two matches because of an ankle injury, Meyers boosted the team with her first double-double of the season and fifth of her career with her 19 kills and 10 digs, and also led the team in hitting (.233).

“I wanted to be aggressive from the start,” Meyers said, “and not to think about my ankle. Once I had the good first set (with a team-high five kills and .500 mark), I felt more and more comfortable as the match went on. It’s hard when I couldn’t be out there (the past two matches), so I wanted to make it up to my teammates. This was an important match for the team – they were highly ranked and the Pac-10 season starts next week - so this will give us a lot of confidence.”

The Ducks had two others with double-digit kill figures – Newcombe (13) and senior middle blocker Neticia Enesi (11).

Drama was certainly at a premium in UO’s first five-set affair of the season, and the UO offense was again ably run by senior setter Nevena Djordjevic who had her second-highest assists tally of the year (50), and her 13th, +50 tally of her career.

On defense, freshman Haley Jacob came up with a team season-high 15 digs, and senior Amanda Westrick also motivated UO on the court with a match-high in service aces (2) - the third straight match she's paced the squad.

“My serving’s coming around, and this was my best match serving so far this year,” Westrick said, “especially since I didn’t have any errors. I was just doing my part in the huddle and tried to inspire my teammates by telling them that we could do it, and we gotta get up, support each other, and play inspired.”

The Minnesota defense held the Ducks to a season-low hitting mark (.188), although UO opened the match with a .344 mark in the first set. Oregon, however, dropped to .195 mark in the second set, sub-.100 marks in the third and fourth sets (.093 / .080), then rebounded with a .250 mark in the final stanza.

In the match-end team comparisons, Minnesota led in hitting (.212-.188) and blocks (16-8), UO led in aces (4-3), and the two teams tied in kills (62) and digs (60).

UO’s hitting attack had topped .300 in five of its previous eight matches, while UM’s block total (16) was the first double-digit tally by a Duck opponent this year.

For the returning Big Ten runner-up Gophers, category leaders included Brooke Dieter (20 kills, 23 points), Lauren Gibbenmeyer (.484, 8 blocks), Taylor Carico (37 assists) and Christine Tan (17 digs).

Looking ahead, UO wraps up its Rocky Mountain road trip and Pioneer Classic action vs. host Denver University Saturday at 10 a.m. PT (11 a.m. MT).