EUGENE, Ore. - The Oregon volleyball team is in unprecedented territory. The Ducks are coming off a 30-5 season in 2012, the program’s most wins in the NCAA era. They advanced to the 2012 NCAA National Championship, the deepest tournament run in school history. Now, Oregon enters the 2013 season ranked eighth in the AVCA Preseason Top 25, the highest preseason ranking in school history.
Fans and media alike have wondered what the successful season in 2012 has done (and will do) for the program in terms of expectations and recruiting. Head coach Jim Moore was less concerned about those outcomes and hopes the team gained something much simpler from last season.
“I hope what we carry from (last season) is that you have to take it one play at a time,” Moore said during the team’s media day, Tuesday.
Moore has turned the team’s focus away from past accomplishments and where people project the Ducks to finish, bringing players’ attention to the here and now.
“We were picked fourth last year; we’re higher in the national poll but none of it matters, it matters where we’re at in the end,” Moore said. “The more we get distracted on where we can go, that’s where we are going to get ourselves in trouble. We can only take care of the play that is in front of our face.”
And in true Oregon fashion, Moore even coined the term “Win the Play” while taking questions from fans at last week’s intrasquad exhibition.
It’s a goal and motto the whole team can understand and rally around, whether they were one of the nine who took part in last year’s National Championship, or one of the seven talented new players looking to make an impact this season.
The large turnover is a change from last fall, when the Ducks entered fall training without losing a single player to graduation. All-American outside hitter Liz Brenner, who has stepped into more of a leadership role this year, will be one of the upperclassmen in charge of facilitating this combination of youth and experience
“We have a lot of great people back and a lot of good new people,” Brenner said. “So it’s just a matter of getting everyone to work well together.”
Moore echoed the sentiment, saying the first weeks of training are where the Ducks look to implement changes and get in sync.
“Right now it’s putting the whole systems into place,” he said. “We’re trying to do some different things blocking. Everybody has to learn the defense, everyone has to learn to play with one another. The communication is what’s crucial and that’s the part we have to get squared away, is that we have to have great communication.”
While the team has turned the page to the 2013 season, and moved past the success of 2012, the support of the Oregon faithful from last season is not forgotten.
“I really think the city of Eugene took pride in what we did last year,” Brenner said. “People walking down the street tell you how good your season was, so it’s cool to see that there were a lot of people paying attention and supporting you through that.”
Fans will have a chance to cheer on the squad when they play their second and final exhibition match, at Matt Knight Arena, Friday at 7 p.m. Admission and parking will be free. Check back to goducks.com tomorrow for a list of participating alumni.