By Rob Moseley
Jim Moore isn’t looking for moral victories. Last week’s loss to Washington could have provided one, but when you’re a team that participated in last season’s NCAA Championship match, moral victories won’t do.
Thus, playing the second-ranked Huskies tough for two sets and winning the third brought Oregon’s head coach little pleasure. Not after the Ducks came out flat in the fourth set to drop the match.
“If they’re the second-ranked team in the country, (based on) the first three sets we’re right there,” said Moore, whose Ducks (8-4, 1-1 Pac-12) play at Arizona on Friday and ASU on Sunday.
“And we are. I’d rather be figuring out how to go up than hang on for dear life, which is kind of what we did last year. It’s easier to (keep improving) than hang on – but only as long as you keep battling.”
Therein lay the problem for the Ducks to this point in the season. At their best, they’re capable of hanging with anyone in the country. But they haven’t always been at their best from start to finish.
The latest example came against the Huskies. After winning a thrilling third set, 31-29, the Ducks had a chance to even the match at two sets apiece. But the opening serve of the fourth set was into the net, Oregon fell flat and UW took the set and the match, 25-8.
“We just fell apart, rolled over, gave up, in my opinion,” UO senior Ariana Williams said. “After we make one mistake, we make 10. People are learning to play together, but that’s not an excuse.
“We have to learn how to play good teams; it’s like we’re surprised when other teams get kills. But against a team like Washington, you have to beat them. It’s not going to be a blowout.”
A year ago, the player who steadied the Ducks whenever they were about to waver was national player of the year Alaina Bergsma. This year’s team has an all-American in Liz Brenner, who said she welcomes the challenge of leading the team through adversity.
“Situations like that are hard,” Brenner said. “You just have to focus on the next play, and moving on to the next ball. You can’t look behind you.”
That’s Oregon’s task this weekend against the Wildcats and Sun Devils. The loss to Washington was like a point that didn’t go their way; will the Ducks forget it and move on, or allow momentum to build?
“We’re there,” Moore said. “You just have to maintain pressure the whole time.”