By Rob Moseley
Just outside the locker room in the volleyball suite at Matthew Knight Arena is a lounge area for UO players and coaches. Comfortable couches beckon, as does a flat screen monitor.
The walls of the lounge feature memorable moments from UO volleyball history. Among the most prominent is a floor-to-ceiling shot from an NCAA Regional victory last season. The Ducks are celebrating on the court, and in the stands is a sea of red – the victory took place in Nebraska, where Oregon is this weekend to kick off the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
If all goes well Friday in the first round against Miami, the Ducks would likely face the host Cornhuskers in the second round. Oregon will then return home for final exams and, if still alive in the tournament, head back to Lincoln, Neb., which will host regionals a year after the Ducks beat the Huskers in Omaha.
So, while the Ducks won’t be on home turf this weekend, and potentially next, another sea of red in the stands won’t be unfamiliar. The Ducks have played before Nebraska’s crowd before, and won, a moment they’re reminded of every day as they leave the locker room and head to the practice court.
“We’ve played well in front of that crowd,” UO coach Jim Moore said earlier this week. “… So we’ll know what that looks like. How much that helps, I don’t know. We’ll wait and see. But we’ve got to get that far. We definitely have to take care of business in the first round.”
That means taking on Miami on Friday at 2:30 p.m., a match to be streamed live at huskers.com. The Hurricanes and No. 25 Ducks bring identical 19-11 records into the match, and each went 12-8 in conference play. Miami is making its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, Oregon its third.
Moore’s initial scouting report of the Hurricanes detailed a tough-serving team with balanced offense. That describes Oregon of late, as well, with Martenne Bettendorf, Canace Finley and Serena Warner raising their level of play to complement mainstays Liz Brenner, Lauren Plum and Ariana Williams during the Ducks’ five-match win streak to end the regular season.
“The harder you work on the little things (in practice), that transfers over to your games,” Brenner said. “I think we’ve been outworking teams toward the end of the season, and when you work hard, things tend to go well for you.”
Oregon enters the NCAA Tournament a year after finishing as runnerup to Texas. That experience taught the Ducks valuable lessons – about the importance of fundamentals like serving and passing come tournament time, and the need to take each match one play at a time.
But it taught them a harsh lesson, too, that contributed to a very low-key, business-like reaction to their NCAA Tournament berth this week.
"I think we would attest to this: there’s first and everybody else,” Moore said. “We’re the ultimate testimony to that last year. … We were really close and no one cares. Take care of business and do what you can. …
“We know that to win each match took taking it one play at a time. So let’s go in, be focused and get after it, and we’ll worry about the next one when it happens.”