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SALT LAKE CITY - The No. 12 University of Oregon volleyball team (7-0) flashed its moxie Tuesday night and overcome various challenges en route to a 3-1 win at the University of Utah (6-5).
After losing the first set, 22-25 and facing its first 0-1 deficit of the season, the Ducks responded by winning the next three games 25-17, 25-20, 25-17 and quieted the once boisterous Ute crowd.
The night opened inauspiciously as starting outside hitter and junior Heather Meyers injured her ankle in the warm-ups and ultimately did not play. However, the retooled Duck lineup gained rhythm as the night went on, and was partly spurred on by freshman outside hitter Jocelyn Levig who came up with a career high 11 kills - nine more than her previous collegiate best.
Topping the kills chart on the evening, senior outside hitter Sonja Newcombe racked up a Duck season-high 21 kills, and also led the team in service aces (2) and just missed her second double-double of the season (and 36th over her career) with nine digs. The Lake Arrowhead, Calif., native also almost tied her kill career high (24) that came her sophomore season at UCLA.
All-American and senior middle blocker Neticia Enesi's 17 kills Tuesday - UO's second-highest tally of the year - marked her second double-digit kill tally of the season in as many matches after she had a previous team season high 15 vs. Portland State last week.
Setting up the Ducks' season high in kills - senior setter Nevena Djordjevic had her +50-assist tally of the year (55) - and the Lazarevac, Serbia native added seven digs and three blocks. Entering the match, her previous seaso high was 39 in the four-set win over PSU, and Tuesday's total was also the third-highest of her career for a match of four sets or less and only four behind her best in the setting vs. North Carolina in last year's NCAA Second Round contest.
On defense for the first time this season, three Ducks came up with +10 digs - freshman defensive specialist Haley Jacob (11), freshman outside hitter Katherine Fischer (11) and senior libero Amanda Westrick (10) - and were also personal season highs.
The Duck blocking attack was equally balanced as six players registered at least one block, led by sophomore Dana Stephenson (4), Enesi (3) and Levig (3).
"This was a great win for us," Oregon head coach Jim Moore said. "I knew that Utah would come out fired up, and they passed to perfection early and jumped on us in the first set. Losing Heather tonight was scary, and we came out tentative which also gave them momentum. However, I was very pleased how everybody stayed calm and played one point at a time and methodically work our way back. Jocelyn stepped up big time and had a great match. To throw her in a situation against a good team that was playing at home, she responded really well. Sonja and Teesh showed what they're made of - they didn't get out of control and stayed within themselves and showed why their All-America players. Amanda played really well at libero and passed really well in serve receive. Nev also did her part by playing conservatively when she needed to and moving it around to various players when the situation called for it."
For the returning NCAA third-round qualifier Utah, various category leaders included Karolina Bartkowiak (13kills, 2 service aces, 7 digs), Sarah Hibbert (13 kills), Abby Simmons (25 assists), Chelsey Sandberg (5 blocks) and Cinthia Silva (7 digs).
In the team comparison, after Utah hit .625 the first set, they Duck 'D' cooled them off and forced them into a match-end .209 total, while UO hit .308. UO also held advantages in assists (58-14), aces (4-2), digs (50-44)and blocks (10.5-9).
Looking ahead, UO continues its Rocky Mountain road trip with a match Wednesday night at Utah Valley that starts at 6 p.m. Pacific Time (7 p.m. MT). The Ducks then play in the Pioneer Classic in Denver vs No. 9 Minnesota Friday at 4 p.m. PT (5 p.m. MT) and against host Denver University Saturday at 10 a.m. PT (11 a.m. MT).
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