Matt Ulmer isn’t sure exactly how many players he will have available to face California and Stanford, but it will be more than the Oregon volleyball coach had last weekend.
The Ducks were without five suspended players — including rotation regulars Willow Johnson, Brooke Van Sickle and Brooke Nuneviller — for a win at Colorado on Friday followed by a loss at Utah on Sunday. When Taylor Borup was injured in the second set against the Utes, Ulmer had only six players available for the rest of the match, including the only set victory for the Ducks in a 25-22, 25-18, 24-26, 25-23 win for Utah.
“I thought it was a pretty impressive performance, it showed how much fight this team has and how talented and deep we are,” Ulmer said. “There was so much pride taking place in those two sets, just having your teammates’ back and not letting any excuses happen. … I feel like we always have a chance no matter what to win because we had a libero on the front row and three middles playing all the way around and still had a chance to beat at Top 25 team on their home court. So what excuse can we have?”
Senior August Raskie said the six Ducks on the court referred to it as a “special ops mission."
“We definitely put up a fight and that felt like reaching a new level,” she added. “Now that we know we can get there, we have to bring it every time. Knowing what the circumstances were and being able to adapt and saying if we can play like that during a situation like that, we need to be able to do that every time.”
Johnson, Van Sickle and Nuneviller were suspended along with freshmen Karson Bacon and Chandler Duff, who are both sitting out a redshirt season. Ulmer said on Wednesday that the suspension lengths are not the same for each player and added “not everyone is back yet” as the Ducks prepare to host California on Friday followed by Stanford on Sunday.
“Our team made up rules at the beginning of last year with guidelines on how to conduct themselves on and off the court and a handful of people violated one of the rules in particular so I stand by what we do as a team,” Ulmer said. “It is important for everyone to understand how serious we are about being great. I have never liked our inconsistencies since I’ve been here. I feel like we can be one of the best teams in the country one day and I don’t recognize us the next.
"A lot of that has to do with how we handle ourselves off the court. Until we get after that and balance out the rest of our lives, we are going to be up and down. I’m just not interested in that. If that means they are suspended, they are suspended and you are going to figure out if this is something that is important to you. I’d rather have six people willing to give everything to this team than 15 that are not so. We had six players willing to give everything. We lost, but we did not lose ourselves.”
Ulmer did not announce which suspensions will end this weekend and was also unsure of the status of Borup. In addition, sophomore Kyra Hanawahine has been playing only one match per weekend while returning from concussion protocol.
The 16th-ranked Ducks (12-6, 5-3) face Cal (10-9, 2-6) at 7 p.m. Friday before second-ranked Stanford (16-1, 8-0) arrives at 11 a.m. Sunday (ESPN2).
“Cal is a real important match for us, a really good team,” Ulmer said. “When you play Stanford (in a) weekend everyone focuses on Stanford, but that is absolutely not the case for us. We know Cal is a big match for us to get a lineup back out there that gives us a little more stability. … We need to beat Cal and maybe that sets up a chance to get after Stanford.”