OMAHA - The #5-seeded University of Oregon volleyball team (28-4) staked a 3-1 win in NCAA Third-Round action over #12 seed BYU (28-4) Friday afternoon to advance to Saturday's Regional Final.
The Ducks opened action with 25-23 and 25-21 victories in the first two sets over the West Coast Conference champion Cougars.
BYU, however, fought back to win the third set, 25-22, and ended the Ducks' 17-set win streak that dated back to a first-set loss at Washington State on November 17.
UO countered with a 25-12 final-set answer in its first-ever appearance in the CenturyLink Center.
That final-set score tied UO's fifth-biggest advantage of the season behind a 19-point margin vs. Western Carolina (25-16) and 14-point wins over Houston, Colorado and Houston (25-11).
Tying her season highs, sophomore outside hitter Liz Brenner led the Ducks in kills (26) and points (27.5) for the eighth time in each category this season. The All-Pac-12 pick also hit .372 - her 13th +.300 total of the season - and added 13 digs for her seventh double-double.
The balanced offense featured four players with +10 kills for the seventh time this year, thanks to senior outside hitters Alaina Bergsma (17 kills, .302) - the Pac-12 Player of the Year - and senior Katherine Fischer (12 kills), and junior middle blocker Ariana Williams (13 kills, .435).
Williams led the team in blocks (4) for a team-best 13th time this year, while senior libero Haley Jacob held similar honors in the digs category (24). Her eighth +20-dig effort of the season also stood as her 23rd career-wise, and she paced the team for the 25th time this year and 74th time as a Duck
Jacob also led the team in aces (2) for the eighth time in '12, thanks to her fifth multi-ace match of the season.
Also on defense, the Ducks featured three other players that posted 11 digs each en route to double-doubles for the first time in '12 - Bergsma, Fischer and junior setter Lauren Plum.
Directing UO to a .333 hitting mark - its 17th +.300 mark of the campaign - Plum ended with 68 assists. The latter mark was her second-highest career tally behind her 75 in a five-set November match vs. Washington that featured three sets that went beyond regulation.
Team-wise, the UO defense held BYU - who ranked second nationally in hitting this week (.313) - to a .259 mark Friday. The Cougars also ranked fifth nationally in blocks (with a 3.02 per set average), but only held a slight edge in Friday's final team comparison (9.0-7.0).
UO also sported advantages in team comparisons for assists (68-47), aces (6-3) and digs (73-58); and the two teams tied in fewest service errors (5-5).
For BYU, WCC Conference Player of the Year Jennifer Hamson landed 18 kills, hit .364 and had four blocks en route to 20 points. Other Cougar category leaders included Kathryn LeCheminant (.385), Heather Hannemann (42 assists), Ciara Parker (15 digs) and Nicole Warner (7 blocks).
Before Friday, the Ducks had advanced to the NCAA Round of 16 twice before under eighth-year head coach Jim Moore (in 2007 and '08), and once before his arrival in 1984. The Ducks now sport an 8-5 postseason mark in his tenure, compared to a 1-5 ledger in their four other trips (1984, ’86, ’87, ’89) since the first tourney in 1981.
Looking ahead, UO will play the winner of Friday afternoon's match between #4 seed Nebraska (25-6) and #13 seed Washington (25-6) that follows immediately on Friday afternoon.
Saturday's NCAA Regional Final is set for a 4 p.m. start Pacific Time and will be broadcast live by ESPN2 and the ESPN3.com website.
UO split the season series with Washington (with a 3-1 win in Eugene and 3-2 loss in Seattle), and has lost its only meetings with Nebraska in 1986 (3-2) and '85 (3-0).
The winner of Saturday' NCAA Regional Final will advance to the NCAA Semifinals in Louisville, Thursday, December 13, and the 32nd NCAA championship match is set for two days later on Saturday, December 15. All three matches from Louisville will be televised live by ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.
Friday's 28th win of the season bettered its former best (27) that came in a 39-match season in 1981.