LOUISVILLE, Ky. — No. 5 Oregon defeated No. 1 Penn State 3-1 on Thursday and are now headed to their first National Championship game in program history for a match against the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night. The Ducks had a balanced attack against Penn State with Liz Brenner leading the team with 17 kills and Alaina Bergsma and Katherine Fischer each adding 16 of their own.
Both Oregon and Penn State came out of the locker room playing relatively tentatively, but Penn State was able to capitalize on their opportunities and jumped out to an early 7-3 over the Ducks, which forced head coach Jim Moore to call his first timeout of the set.
Following the timeout, Ducks and Nittany Lions traded body blows back and forth with each other, and neither team was able to gain any type of separation. The squads were tied at 10, 11, 12 and 13 as well halfway through the frame.
After an Ariana Williams kill at the net gave the Ducks a 20-19 lead, Penn State head coach Russ Rose called for time to strategize.
Penn State responded after the timeout and eventually took a 22-20 lead in the latter stages of the first, and not liking the way his squad was looking Moore called his second timeout of the set.
However, even after the timeout the athletic blockers of Penn State continually sent the Ducks away and a kill by Katie Slay eventually gave the Nittany Lions a 25-21 first set victory.
Oregon came out and capitalized on the Penn State errors, and as a result took a 7-3 lead early. After a Fischer attack ballooned the early lead to 8-3, Rose called for time.
Halfway through the frame, Penn State’s starting setter Micha Hancock went down with an apparent hamstring injury and missed a majority of the set.
Without Hancock setting up the athletic Penn State hitters, the Ducks were able to grow their lead to 17-9 and Rose was forced to use his second timeout of the set seeing his team facing a large deficit as the set approached its waning stages.
Following the timeout the Nittany Lions lingered around and methodically chipped into the Oregon lead and when they pulled within six at 20-14, Moore called for a stoppage in action not wanting the set to get away from his team.
Penn State proceeded to score the next two points to bring the set even closer at 20-16 and a displeased Moore immediately called another timeout.
Turning point. The Nittany Lions tied the set at 24, and from there a marathon began with both teams facing set points on several occasions. However, in the end a Fischer attack secured the second set for Oregon 30-28 and the Ducks escaped to the locker room tied at one.
After the intermission, the two teams come out fighting and found themselves knotted at six early.
As the set progressed, the Ducks managed to hold onto a small lead 15-11 halfway through.
After the timeout, the Ducks clung tightly to their lead at 18-16 in the latter stages, however the Nittany Lions tied the set at 19 after a mental error by Haley Jacob allowed the ball to fall to the ground and Moore called timeout once again.
After a Fischer attack gave Oregon a 23-21 lead, Rose called his second timeout of the set, but in the end an Williams kill gave the Ducks a 25-22 third set victory and they now lead 2-1 headed into the fourth.
With thoughts of playing for a title on their mind, Oregon jumped out to an early 8-3 lead over Penn State. After a Bergsma ace expanded the lead to 9-3, Rose called for an early timeout to stop the bleeding.
After the timeout, the Ducks managed to grow the lead and once Rose saw his team down 15-7 and losing momentum after a huge block from Brenner he used his second timeout of the set.
Oregon maintained a sizable lead throughout the set but after several match point opportunities that did not go their way, Moore called timeout up 24-19.
Following the timeout, a quick attack from Lauren Plum gave the Ducks a 25-19 third set victory and advanced them to the finals and a meeting with Texas.
On the horizon. Saturday night at 4 p.m. PST the Ducks will face off against the Texas Longhorns with the winner claiming the 2012 NCAA National Championship. Texas won in the first semifinal of the evening, beating the Cinderella of the tournament, Michigan 3-2.
In his postgame press conference, Moore reflected back on the win against Penn State and the immense resolve his squad showed.
“I think they’re mentally tough,” Moore said. “And they are willing to do what it takes. So they’ll work as hard as they possibly can at any given moment. And that’s cliché; I understand that… that’s their personality. And it’s kind of special.”