Oregon reaches first championship
Jim Moore's Ducks will battle Texas for national title
At Wednesday’s pre-tournament press conference, Oregon head coach Jim Moore said the road to the Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship goes through Penn State.
On Thursday night, Moore’s squad cleared that daunting hurdle with a 3-1 victory against the Nittany Lions in the NCAA semifinals at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
The win sends Oregon to the championship match for the first time in program history after the Ducks’ first appearance in the semifinals.
Moore knew his team had what it took to contend for a national championship in January.
“I knew we were good,” Moore said. “We were good last year, we just weren’t consistent. That was our emphasis this season … it was about being consistently good.”
Last year’s team had the makings of a champion, but underachieved, losing to Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“They weren’t very happy a year ago at this point in time,” Moore said. “And they made a change. And that’s why we’re here.”
Penn State posed a serious challenge for the Ducks, but they kept on fighting to fend off the Nittany Lions.
After dropping the first set 25-21 the Ducks held on for a thrilling 30-28 victory in the second set, and did not look back. Oregon won the third and fourth sets, continuing to get stronger as the match went on.
“We certainly didn’t play at the level we wanted to offensively, but a lot of that had to do with Penn State … but [the Oregon players] are tough,” Moore said.
“We were definitely in our flow,” sophomore outside hitter Liz Brenner said. “I think that threw them off … they weren’t used to have another team do that, which kind of rattled them and we took advantage of that. We kept pressing.”
Penn State posted 20 blocks in the match, and held the Ducks to a sub-par .170 hitting percentage, but Oregon did not relent.
“Our passing was there [Thursday],” Pac-12 Player of the Year Alaina Bergsma said. “We passed really well. We have a fast offense, and that is really hard for even the biggest blockers to catch up to because we’re going to the pins quick. It definitely helps to have so many weapons. I think that really stresses blockers … never knowing who is going to be killing it that night.”
Bergsma was one of three Oregon players with double-digit kills in the match. She knocked down 16 kills, including six in the fourth set.
“It makes my life so much easier when so many other people are putting the ball on the ground,” Bergsma said. “It really opened me up with Liz [Brenner] and Katherine [Fischer] hitting so well. I kind of struggled in the first couple of sets, but they started leaving me more opened which made it easier.”
“They were what we thought they were going to be,” Penn State head coach Russ Rose said. “They do a lot of things really well. They were the better team.”
Oregon’s high-flying offense leads the nation with 15.97 kills per set and 14.91 assists per set.
“Bergsma has a terrific arm and great range,” Rose said. “[Lauren] Plum is a terrific setter and a great leader and does a great deal for their team.”
The Ducks will play Texas for the national title on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. Oregon is looking to become the fifth different Pac-12 team to win a national championship since 2001. Stanford won titles in 2001 and 2004, USC took home back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003, Washington claimed the 2005 trophy and UCLA captured the title last year.