Jim Moore and his No. 5-ranked Oregon volleyball team are going to Omaha.
After defeating Northern Colorado and Dayton — both in straight sets — in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament in Eugene, the Ducks have earned a spot in the regional round in Nebraska.
While Oregon did appear to suffer a midseason lull in November, losing three of six matches during the beginning of November, they appear to have worked through their issues and have now won 15 consecutive sets.
Speaking Saturday after his team’s dominant performance over Dayton, head coach Jim Moore spoke of how pleased he was with the effort the Ducks put forth in the two opening rounds at home.
“I believe that the first time you host an NCAA event, it’s the most difficult matches there is to win. It’s hard,” Moore said. “You’re supposed to win, you’re at home. If you don’t win, it’s like, ‘Are you crazy?’ And they did a great job of that, keeping their emotions in check and doing what they’re supposed to do.”
In the first two rounds of the tournament, the Ducks looked calm and focused, and they executed incredibly well in two dominating victories. They were expected to handle business at home, and they did just that, not losing a set and not falling behind at any point to Dayton until the third set. Alaina Bergsma was her typical All-American self and Lauren Plum effectively distributed the volleyball, showing why she was named Pac-12 Setter of the Year.
While Liz Brenner did not have the best start to the tournament against Northern Colorado, she bounced back quite nicely against Dayton and was second on the team behind Bergsma, netting 13 kills.
The Ducks will return to practice on Monday and shift their focus to BYU, their opponent for Friday afternoon in Omaha. The Cougars are led by the West Coast Conference player of the year, 6-foot-7 opposite hitter Jennifer Hamson, and BYU knocked off New Mexico State and Oklahoma in their first two matches to get to Omaha; overall, they have won nine of the last 10 times they have taken the court.
The winner of the Oregon-BYU match will advance to play the winner of the Washington-Nebraska matchup for an opportunity to advance to the Final Four in Louisville.
For Oregon to remain successful and continue their dominant play, Bergsma and Plum must continue playing at an elite level and Brenner can’t disappear for stretches of the match. If the Ducks are focused and clicking on all cylinders, they are a tough matchup for anyone in the country. The Ducks are set to play the NCAA Sweet 16 game on Dec. 7 at 2 p.m.