Oregon lost its final home match of the volleyball regular season Friday at Matthew Knight Arena.
Did it also mean more than one defeat to the Ducks?
Second place in the Pac-12 had been in play for Oregon with a strong finish. Being chosen to host a first-round regional in the NCAA tournament had been a hope for the Ducks.
Second place seems a stretch and likely so is hosting in the postseason.
“It took a hit,” UO coach Matt Ulmer said of being a host site for the opening rounds. “I thought we had to go 4-0 (in the final two weekends) to make our strongest case for hosting.
“We wanted to keep it in our control as much as possible, now we have to have help.”
That’s all the result of the 16th-ranked Ducks (18-10 overall, 11-7 Pac-12) being victimized by Colorado (16-12, 8-9) in the biggest win of the season for the Buffaloes, a 19-25, 25-22, 25-21, 20-25, 16-14 shocker in front of the 2,988 gathered to bid farewell to four Oregon seniors.
“I liked our fight ... we worked hard the whole match,” Ulmer said. “We just didn’t have enough there at the end.”
The loss leaves Oregon alone in third place in the Pac-12, with USC in second at 12-5 and Washington and Washington State tied for fourth at 10-7.
Oregon concludes its regular season with road matches at Washington on Wednesday and at Oregon State next Saturday.
After the Ducks knotted the match at two sets, the fifth set included a little bit of everything, including three critical video reviews.
On the first, Willow Johnson’s kill to apparently get Oregon within 10-8 was reversed when it was ruled Johnson’s hand hit the net on her followthrough.
“It was great momentum play,” Ulmer said. “That was a bummer.”
The Ducks did get within 11-8 when a video review affirmed that no Ducks had touched a Colorado hit that went out of bounds.
The final review came on the final point, when it was affirmed that Ronika Stone’s hit went wide without touching either of the Colorado players attempting a block.
“I think I had the best angle in the gym,” Ulmer said of his view that led to a challenge of the original ruling. “I know touch calls are really tough on the video system (but) I thought it was a micro touch.”
And so it could be that such a tiny margin will possibly factor into Oregon’s postseason destination.
Arguing for the Ducks is a 6-8 record against teams in the current coaches top 25, with five of those UO defeats to teams ranked seventh or higher. Prior to Friday, Oregon’s only loss to a team outside of the top 25 was at Utah, when the Ducks finished the match with only six available players due to suspensions and injuries. Oregon avenged that defeat with a three-set sweep Wednesday.
That win over the Utes came, however, with Taylor Borup playing all the way despite an ailing ankle that Ulmer has said could require surgery at the end of the season. Borup couldn’t make it all the way Friday against Colorado.
“I didn’t think she was going to play. She was just hurting so bad,” Ulmer said.
The Ducks had some strong performances. Johnson had a career-high 18 kills with a .441 hitting percentage. Stone backed her with 17 kills and hit .342 and Lindsey Vander Weide added 16 kills and 11 digs in her home farewell. August Raskie, another of the seniors, finished up with her 13th double-double of the season on 58 assists and 13 digs.
Freshman Brooke Nuneviller recorded 30 digs to move her into 10th on Oregon’s single-season list with 466.
Vander Weide already ranked in Oregon’s career top 10 for kills, digs and total points, and with two service aces moved into a tie for 10th in that category. Raskie, meanwhile, ranks seventh in career assists with 2,654 despite sharing the setter position her previous three seasons.