Call it swagger or attitude or killer instinct, or whatever metaphor connotes a hunter mentality instead of the hunted.
To take down the volleyball beast known as Stanford, one law of the Pac-12 jungle applies: Only ravenous carnivores need show up for these hunger games.
No. 16 Oregon brought the right brunch-time appetite for about 30 minutes Sunday morning before the second-ranked Cardinal dined on the Ducks for a 12th consecutive time, prevailing 16-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-15 before a Matthew Knight Arena crowd of 2,176, to up their series edge against Oregon to a preposterous 65-4.
“We’re not ready to sustain at that level yet,” UO coach Matt Ulmer said. “I thought we followed our game plan pretty much to a ‘T’ in probably the first set and a half, and then they started to put some pressure on us in service receive.
“Then I feel we started to panic. We started focusing on what they were doing as far as how it was affecting us.”
Stanford (18-1, 10-0 Pac-12) won its 16th match in a row behind Kathryn Plummer’s 19 kills and a 10-1 edge in service aces. The Ducks (13-7, 6-4) are in a three-way tie for third in the conference race at halfway mark with six of their remaining 10 games on the road.
Oregon already owns a 3-1 victory over then-No. 1 Minnesota and sweeps of nationally ranked USC and UCLA in Los Angeles.
However, the Cardinal, whose only loss was in late August at now-No. 1 BYU, showed it was a different kind of animal, particularly at the service line.
“I thought our team did a nice job of putting continuous service pressure on them and we got them in a little trouble with that,” Stanford coach Kevin Hambly said. “That was the difference. It was about the serve-and-pass game.”
The biggest swing came in the third set when eight of the Cardinal’s points came on their four aces and Oregon’s four service errors. The Ducks had 10 receiving errors overall, including five by senior Lindsey Vander Weide, who just missed a double-double with 13 kills and nine digs.
“They’re just a really aggressive serving team,” she said. “A lot of teams don’t get after it like they do. I don’t think they’re afraid to make errors, so they were getting us out-of-system a lot. … They got after it better than we did.”
Plummer, the reigning national player of the year, had 11 of her 19 kills in the final two sets. Holly Campbell, Tami Alade and Audriana Fitzmorris added nine each, and Stanford hit .331, 20 points above its conference-leading average.
Oregon, which lost for the first time in 12 matches after winning the opening set, was hitting .360 after three sets but finished at .289. Brooke Van Sickle had 12 kills and eight digs, Willow Johnson added 11 kills, and August Raskie had 44 assists.
Despite the loss, Ulmer said he believes the Ducks are close to getting it figured out.
“We are one of the elite teams,” he said. “There’s no question in my mind. Again, I think the difference is the mindset.
“I think we’re on the way there and I really think that’s the last piece for us. … That’s the jump we need to take.”
It starts next weekend at Arizona State and Arizona, both of which beat the Ducks at home last month, with the unranked Sun Devils doing it in a sweep.
“Every win matters, every match matters,” Ulmer said. “Beating Arizona State is every bit as important as beating Stanford, so we need to believe that every match we play is really important to us, because if you don’t show up for any match in this conference, you’re going to lose.
“It’s about sustaining excellence for us, so we’re working on it.”