Lindsey Vander Weide figured she played her final match at Matthew Knight Arena two weeks ago when Oregon lost to Colorado in five sets.
“I was pretty upset after senior night, a lot of us were because we were ending on not such a great note,” Vander Weide said. “It is crazy to get another opportunity, I didn’t expect it after that loss to Colorado. Things played out in our favor and we are excited to be able to come here again.”
Oregon (20-10) finished up the regular season with wins at Washington and Oregon State last week to finish tied for second in the Pac-12 Conference at 13-7. The Ducks earned a No. 15 seed into the NCAA Tournament that brings them back to Matthew Knight Arena at 7 p.m. Thursday for a first-round match against New Mexico State (24-7).
If Oregon can defeat the Aggies, it gets one more home game Friday night against Baylor or Hawaii.
“I’m excited for our seniors to play here again,” UO coach Matt Ulmer said. “Senior night didn’t end how we would have hoped, so now we get another chance to rewrite that story and make it a little better.”
Oregon’s four seniors — Vander Weide, Sumeet Gill, Lauren Page and August Raskie — are making their fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, but playing at home for the first time in the postseason.
Oregon’s last three seasons ended with losses to a host team in the tournament, beginning with a first-round defeat at Wisconsin in 2015. The Ducks lost at Michigan in the second round in 2016 before falling at BYU last year in the second round.
“For our seniors being in their fourth postseason, they know what it is about,” Ulmer said. “Last year at BYU was a great environment to be in and we played tough. This poses a different challenge because we haven’t had a postseason match at home. This will be the first time, so I am excited they get to experience that. I think we will have a nice crowd that will be real energetic for us.”
Oregon averaged 1,867 fans per home game this season and hopes to exceed that number during a week when the football team is not playing and both basketball teams are off until the weekend.
The Ducks are 9-5 at home, including losses to Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State, which all finished below them in the standings. Oregon was 10-3 on the road and 1-2 at neutral sites.
“Our home record has not been what we wanted it to be,” junior Ronika Stone said. “We lost a couple close ones at home and lost some we did not think we should have lost at home. We want to prove we are a team that can fight and finish and not let ourselves down or our home crowd down. We have a lot to prove this weekend.”
Stone joined Vander Weide on the all-Pac-12 team that was announced Tuesday. Vander Weide also earned first-team honors as a freshman and sophomore before getting honorable mention last year while battling an injury.
“It feels great to be healthy, I feel like I can play so much more free,” Vander Weide said. “Last year, I was always thinking about my knee and this year I can think about my game instead.”
Vänder Weide leads the Ducks with 369 kills to rank 13th in the Pac-12.
“Lindsey is playing her best volleyball, I don’t think there is any question about that,” Ulmer said. “She’s going to bring it. I think she will rise to the challenge and do great.”
After playing her final game at Matthew Knight Arena this week, Vänder Weide will look to extend Oregon’s season into the Sweet 16.
“Lindsey has been a monster for us this year," Stone said. “She keeps getting better for us each game. This is the right time for her to peak and for all of us to peak because it is tournament time. It is time to go for it so why not just kill it.”