Ducks hit the road for the Sweet 16

Ducks hit the road for the Sweet 16

EUGENE – This weekend, the #5-seeded University of Oregon volleyball team (27-4, 16-4) looks ahead to its fourth-ever NCAA Round of 16 appearance (and third under head coach Jim Moore).

Sporting their highest-ever NCAA seeding, the Ducks are riding a 15-set win streak and come off their first home postseason play since ‘86 (and third ever).

Under Moore, UO also advanced to NCAA Regional play in 2007 and ’08, and now aims for its first-ever NCAA Regional final appearance. The Ducks sport a 7-5 postseason mark in Moore’s eight-year tenure, compared to a 1-5 ledger in their four other trips  (1984, ’86, ’87, ’89) since the first tourney in 1981.

Oregon opens regional action Friday against the West Coast Conference co-champion BYU (28-3, 13-3). Making their first NCAA trip since ’07, the Cougars won both NCAA matches last weekend in Provo by 3-0 counts over NMSU and Oklahoma. Led by WCC Player of the Year Jen Hamson, the Cougars rank second nationally in hitting (.313) and fifth in blocks (3.02 per set).

With a win over BYU, UO would face the winner of Friday’s match between #4 seed Nebraska and #13 Washington on Saturday.

Last weekend, the Huskers swept both Maryland-Eastern Shore and Northern Iowa in Lincoln, and UW won 3-0 over Central Arkansas and 3-2 over Hawai’i in Seattle.

Next week, the four regional champions from Austin, Berkeley, Omaha and West Lafayette will play in the the NCAA Semifinals in Louisville, Thursday, December 13 at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. PT.

The 32nd NCAA championship match follows two days later on Saturday, December 15 at 4 p.m. PT. All three matches from Louisville will be televised live by ESPN2 and

With its second-place Pac-12 finish, Oregon celebrated its best-ever league placing in 27 years of Pac-12 play. UO’s previous all-time highest finish - fourth – came once under Jim Moore (2008) and three times under Gerry Gregory (1986, 87 (tie) and ’89 (tie)).

En route to 27 wins this year, Oregon eclipsed 20 victories at record pace after it also achieved the feat four times before under eighth-year head coach Jim Moore in 2007 (22), '08 (25), '09 (20) and '11 (21). For comparison’s sake, UO achieved the feat once before ('89 – 21) in the other 19 years of conference play that started in 1986.

Oregon’s regular-season win tally (27) ties its best since to the start of the NCAA volleyball era in 1981 with 1984’s 27-12 mark.

UO owns a 9-4 record against 2012 NCAA advancers, including a 4-3 mark vs. top 16 seeds (with sweeps of #4 USC, #7 UCLA and #16 Kentucky and 3-1 victory over #13 Washington, and losses to #2 Stanford (twice) and #13 UW). Remaining wins over non-seeded teams came vs. Ohio State, St. Mary’s, California and Arizona State (twice), and the loss was to California.

The Ducks still lead the nation in kills this week (15.94 per set), and also rank first in assists (14.89) and ninth in hitting (.295).

Oregon’s hitting mark (.295) is .006 ahead of its school record (.289) that it set in 2008. Not surprisingly, the Ducks have 16 +.300 hitting marks in matches in 2012 compared with just two by their opponents. UO has led the kills team comparison in all 31 contests this year and in hitting 30 times.

The Ducks meet the Cougars for the first time in 25 years (1988, a 3-0 loss). BYU owns a 9-1 mark in the series that started in 1975, and UO’s only win in the series came in 1984 (3-1).

Nebraska won the last contest with the Ducks 27 years ago (1986, 3-2), and the Huskers won their other meeting the year before in 1985 (3-0).

All-time against Washington, the Huskies sport a 58-22 mark vs. the Ducks (and 12-4 mark vs. Jim Moore). Oregon has won one match each of the last four years in the Husky series – and its four wins in that span give Moore a 4-4 mark since ’09. Prior to that, UW had won a series-best 17 straight matches from 2001-09, while a Duck win in 2000 ended another nine-match Husky streak from 1996-99.