Cougar volleyball travels onto Oregon


Freshman outside hitter McKenna Woodford jumps to spike the ball during a game against California in Bohler Gym on Nov. 13.

The cult hero mountain man Jedediah Smith had no idea what was in store for him when he trekked west a second time, eventually helping blaze the Oregon Trail. Washington State volleyball (15-13, 4-12) is looking to surprise the Oregon Ducks tonight in a similar fashion.

“It wasn’t the best game,” junior outside hitter Kyra Holt said of her team’s performance against UO in their last meeting. “So I don’t think that they know what’s coming for them. It was just an off game, so we’re coming full force at them.”

The Ducks (13-12, 7-9) – ranked No. 24 at the time – defeated the Cougs in Bohler Gym 3-1 on Oct. 18 in set scores of 17-25, 25-22, 19-25 and 22-25. UO- the runner-up in the 2013 NCAA Championship match- has experienced a transition year similar to WSU’s: up-and-down play, inconsistency at times and a young roster are similarities the two teams share.

“It’s kind of been a down year for them, but we still look at them as a strong team just like anyone else in the Pac,” Tani Stephens, junior defensive specialist and Oregon native, said. “We have to prepare for them to be at their best as well as us being at ours.”

WSU is coming off a weekend split with the Bay Area schools, sweeping California last Friday night and dropping Sunday’s match to No. 6 Stanford 3-1. Confident from the Cal game, WSU knows that this match is an opportunity to win a match against a well-respected program in front of what is expected to yield a bigger crowd than most road trips.

“We know that we can beat the ranked teams, but everyone needs to compete within themselves,” Holt said. “Just, ‘do your job’- that’s all. We play with the top-25 teams all the time, so we just have to take that step. Definitely our consistency throughout the game needs to be better. I know that Stanford was an earlier game, so either we need to wake up earlier or find a way to come out with the same energy that we did against Cal.”

Currently on the bubble with four games left to play in the Pac-12, UO needs this game to buffer its playoff resume for the selection committee. The Ducks are known for running a fast-paced offense that likes to utilize their athleticism to create separation in matches. Using its block – WSU blocked a combined 20 shots last weekend – and tall middles becomes crucially important for the Cougs this match.

Never failing to enthusiastically enter a match against a hyped program like UO, the Cougs want to make a statement away from home and acquire their first conference road victory in the process. 

“We didn’t have our greatest of games last time against them,” Stephens said. “I definitely think that we have a lot more fight and have improved immensely since then. So I think it will be a very good opportunity for us.”

The first serve for tonight’s contest is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena. The match will be broadcasted live on the Pac-12 Networks.