The Oregon Ducks volleyball team is headed to Louisville, Ky., to participate in their first Final Four in program history following a 3-1 victory over Nebraska. Pac-12 Player of the Year Alaina Bergsma led the team with 23 kills and Lauren Plum added 52 assists en route to stunning the Cornhuskers and a packed house in their home state.
With a trip to Louisville on the line, both teams came out of the gates playing solid volleyball, but Nebraska jumped out to an early 8-4 lead over the Ducks. With the hometown crowd behind the Huskers and seeing his team facing an early deficit, head coach Jim Moore called his first timeout of the set to quell the wave of the momentum Nebraska had garnered.
After the timeout, the Cornhuskers continued to play at a high level and extended their lead to 12-6, which resulted in Moore using his second timeout of the set.
As the set progressed, the Ducks played sloppy volleyball and simply had no answer for the Nebraska offensive attack. The set was won 25-15 by the Huskers after a miscommunication between Hayley Jacob and Martenne Bettendorf resulted in the ball falling into the net.
The start of the second set showed a complete change in play from the Ducks, and Alaina Bergsma and company jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, which forced Nebraska head coach John Cook to use his first timeout of the afternoon.
As play resumed, Oregon managed to cling onto a small lead but the Huskers tied the set at 11 and eventually took the lead at 12-11 that resulted in the Ducks calling a timeout to stop the bleeding.
Turning point. As the set wore on, it remained tightly contested, and as the frame approached its waning moments, Oregon clung onto a 17-15 lead. After several unforced errors by the Cornhuskers that allowed Oregon to extend their lead to 20-17, Cook called his second timeout of the set.
However, Oregon was able to hold off the Huskers and eventually knotted the match at one, winning the second set 25-21 on a kill from Ariana Williams.
Coming back from the intermission both teams came out of the locker room looking crisp and found themselves tied at six early.
The Ducks then went on a 3-0 run giving them a 9-6 lead and with his team now trailing and looking sloppy, Cook called for time.
Following the timeout and the maturation of the set, the Ducks continued to lead and eventually grew their lead to 16-10 after a kill by Williams and Nebraska was forced into using its second timeout of the set.
When play resumed, Oregon continued their offensive barrage and a Katherine Fischer kill at the net gave the Ducks a 25-18 second set victory and a 2-1 advantage overall.
With their backs against the wall and facing elimination on their home court, Nebraska came out in the fourth playing good volleyball, but the Ducks matched their intensity and the two teams were tied at 4 early and than again at 9.
However, a brief offensive spurt by Nebraska gave them an 11-9 lead, and with the home crowd back into the match, Moore called timeout.
After play resumed Oregon tied the set at 12, but halfway through the frame Nebraska clung to a 15-13 lead. However, the Ducks managed to regain some momentum and as the set wound down they lead 18-16 and Cook called for a stoppage in play.
Even after the timeout, Oregon maintained their high level of offensive efficiency and grew their lead to 21-17, which forced Cook to call his second timeout of the set with his team on the ropes.
The Huskers simply could not quell the momentum Oregon was riding and a Lauren Plum ace gave the Ducks a 25-17 fourth set victory and punched their ticket to Louisville.
On the horizon. Jim Moore and his team will now pack their bags and head to Louisville for the national semifinals where they will take on the top-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions on Dec. 13. Penn State defeated Minnesota in the quarterfinals 3-1 to earn their spot in the Final Four.