EUGENE – This weekend, the #5-seeded University of Oregon volleyball team (25-4, 16-4) comes off a best-ever, runner-up Pac-12 finish to host its third-ever opening round NCAA matches, and first since 1986.
The Ducks also sport their highest-ever NCAA seeding, and their 25 regular-season wins are their most since the start of Pac-12 play in 1986.
UO will make its sixth NCAA trip the last seven years under eighth-year head coach Jim Moore. The Ducks sport a 5-5 postseason mark in his tenure, compared to a 1-5 ledger in their four other appearances since the first tourney in 1981 (1984, ’86, ’87, ’89).
Oregon opens the postseason with an 8 p.m. showdown Friday vs. Big Sky champion Northern Colorado (24-10, 14-6). The Bears were a surprise Big Sky tourney winner last weekend en route to their fourth straight 20-win season.
Immediately before at Matthew Knight Arena, Atlantic-10 champion Dayton (25-7, 14-1) will face Pepperdine (20-11, 8-8) – an ‘Elite Eight’ advancer last year. The two teams met earlier this year and Dayton won 3-1 at home in the season-opening Flyer Classic.
The winners of those two matches will play in the NCAA Second Round Saturday night at 8 p.m. The winner from that match then advances to the four-team Third Round in the Omaha Regional on Friday, December 7, and the Regional Final follows the next day (Sat., 12/8).
THE ROAD TO LOUISVILLE
Next week, the nation’s 16, second-round advancers will advance to play in the NCAA Regional third and fourth rounds, Friday-Saturday, December 7-8. California, Nebraska, Purdue and Texas will host those regional matches, and every contest will be televised live by ESPNU and ESPN3.com.
A week later the NCAA Semifinals will be held in Louisville, Thursday, December 13 at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. PT, and the 32nd NCAA championship match follows two days later on Saturday, December 15 at 4 p.m. PT. All three matches from Louisville will also be televised live by ESPN2 and ESPN3.com.
A RECORD-BREAKING RUN
With its second-place Pac-12 finish, Oregon celebrated its best-ever league placing in the 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 25 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.
Since the start of the Pac-12 in 1986, Oregon’s regular-season win tally (25) is its best ever. Going back five more years to the start of the NCAA volleyball era in 1981, UO’s current mark is the second-best factoring in 1984’s 27-12 season.
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 (15.90 per set), and also rank first in assists (14.88) and ninth in hitting (.292).
Its hitting mark (.292) is .003 ahead of its school record (.289) that it set in 2008. Not surprisingly, the Ducks have 14 +.300 hitting marks in matches this season compared with just two by their opponents. The Ducks have led the kills team comparison in all 29 contests this year and in hitting 28 times.