This last weekend, the Oregon Ducks hosted the Arizona schools, playing the Arizona State Sun Devils on Friday and the Arizona Wildcats on Sunday. While the schools have different personnel and playing styles, both sit in the middle of the Pac-12 rankings. But with the Pac-12 being as good a volleyball conference as it is, either school can trip you up if you let them get away from you.
Oregon vs. Arizona State
On Friday, the Oregon Ducks overpowered Arizona State – subjectively the lesser of the two schools – 25-17, 25-15, 25-12.
Gloria Mutiri fired off the first two Oregon kills of the match, and on this Friday night she was a dominating factor in dismissing the Sun Devils. Arizona State held a brief, early lead in the set at 1-2, but Mutiri’s (second) kill to tie it at 2-2 would end the Sun Devils’ first and only lead of the entire match.
The Sun Devils did tie again a few times in the early part of the set, but eventually succumbed to having no answer for the many weapons the Ducks had at their disposal. That’s not to say Arizona State performed badly. The Sun Devils are great on defense. They just don’t have Oregon’s combination of height and athleticism. Oregon had a three point run to take the set to 9-6, and then the teams traded points before ASU had a three point run of their own to come within one, 12-11. The Ducks then distanced themselves with a four point run and that’s as close as the Sun Devils would get.
In the second set, ASU again was game in the early part of the set, and pulled to tie the Ducks several times. In this stretch, Oregon was aided by the play of Mimi Colyer, and not in the way you may think. Colyer gets recognition as one of the kill leaders, but she’s also an excellent defender. In this part of the match, however, Colyer displays her service skills.
Afterwards, Oregon exploded with a five-point run, lead by three kills from (of course) Gloria Mutiri. ASU then showed signs of running out of gas, and could not keep up with the onslaught. The Ducks popped off three three-point runs, and that was it for the second set – not off a kill, but off of Oregon’s excellent blocking:
In set 3, Oregon started with a three point run. ASU responded and tied the set 3-3…and that’s all they had. Friday was just not going to be the night that the Sun Devils would trip up the Ducks in MKA. ASU had nothing to respond to Oregon’s relentless attack.
Let’s not discount the usual contributions of Brooke Nuneviller and Mimi Colyer…never more evident than at match point:
Gloria Mutiri lead all attackers with 14 kills, and added three blocking assists. Brooke Nuneviller was everywhere, as evidenced by her double-double of 10 kills and 12 digs. Kiari Robey brought the night’s best attacking percentage with .800 on 4 kills and added 4 block assists. Georgia Murphy was her usual defense self (and that may sound underhanded until you see her consistently play as she does) with 17 digs. Last – and not least – Mimi Colyer brought a double-double with 12 kills and 14 digs.
All in all, it was a very satisfying sweep in front of nearly 1,900 fans.
Oregon vs. Arizona
Arizona was the – again, subjectively – better of the Arizona schools, so the Sunday match held some intrigue. Were the Wildcats going to bring game? Could Oregon sweep the weekend?
Ahead of this match, the NCAA DI Volleyball Committee revealed their first ranking of the season, and showed their respect for the Ducks’ efforts.
The Ducks would sweep again, 25-19, 25-18, 25-13. Don’t be fooled by the final score – the Wildcats really did play better than the sets scores might indicate.
Arizona performed as expected early, getting an early lead and pushing Oregon to respond. This match was Colby Neal’s time to shine behind the tandem of Brooke Nuneviller and Mimi Colyer. Neal aided in closing the early Wildcat lead:
After falling behind early, Oregon would come back on the strength of a four-point rally to take the set to 6-5. AZ would tie a couple of times, but they would not be able to take Oregon once the Ducks got a full head of steam. Nevertheless, the Wildcats are also very good on defense, and that lead to some wonderful rallies.
The Ducks closed out set 1 in solid fashion. Would there be a set 2 letdown?
It has been the pattern that players other than the predominant pair of Nuneviller and Colyer will show up early in a match, and then halfway in the match you look up and these two stars are catching up. Really, Brooke Nuneviller and Mimi Colyer can be quite stealthy in their ability to take over a match. As they have so many times, the Duck stars shone brilliantly:
In set 2, AZ played well and scored several leads going into mid-set. Kills by Gloria Mutiri, Colby Neal, and Mimi Colyer ended that nonsense and the Ducks did not look back. The Wildcats were overwhelmed and Oregon finished the set with a five point run.
In the third set, it was all Oregon. The Ducks started with a a five point run, setting the Wildcats on their heels right away. Colby Neal would be the standout today with nine kills on the afternoon.
Oregon would wrap this match up in straight sets, their third sweep in as many matches.
Brooke Nuneviller lead the Duck kills today with 16, and also sported the top kill percentage of .536. Hannah Pukis had two well-placed kills and 26 assists. I’m uncertain as to whether there was miscommunication or a failed set, but a couple of assist attempts went wrong in a way that I do not recall in the last handful of matches. Regardless, I’m not knocking our setter, because I think she may be the best in the nation. Neal Colby had a fantastic night with nine kills. Georgia Murphy was her usual underappreciated self with 16 digs, but that number hardly shows her defensive efforts.
Let’s talk Mimi Colyer. Her night ended with another double-double, with 13 kills and 11 digs. What I would add here is that I don’t recall seeing a player that can deliver a backcourt kill like Colyer. No disrespect to Nuneviller – Brooke is the entire package and she does the same – but so is Colyer. They both kill like no one’s business. Mimi Colyer is the real deal and Oregon will go deep this year because this outstanding team has veterans that are supplemented by superb freshman (!) like Mimi Colyer. And Colby Neal.
This Oregon Ducks team has won six straight with three sweeps in a row. So far, this is an outstanding team that may equal or better the 2012 team. But there is a lot of season left, and the Pac-12 is a deep conference. Oregon next goes on the road for the next two weeks, and we’ll get a sense of what kind of road warriors this Oregon Ducks squad is.