Willow Johnson found a new way to help Oregon.
The junior took advantage of increased service opportunities with four aces to lead the 15th-seeded Ducks past New Mexico State 25-22, 18-25, 25-21, 25-11 in front of 2,407 Thursday night during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Matthew Knight Arena. Johnson entered the game with one career ace.
“I knew I wasn’t having a good offensive night so I decided to go back and I had the opportunity to serve so I really focused in and tried to give something to my team,” Johnson said. “Serving tough and aggressive.”
Oregon led 16-13 in the third set before scoring four straight points on serves by Johnson. She had a run of 10 straight serves in the fourth set that put Oregon ahead 15-6.
“How good was her serving at the end?” UO coach Matt Ulmer asked. “That might have been the difference.”
New Mexico State led 6-5 in the fourth set before Johnson got the ball and had three aces in a span of nine serves.
“She had good pace on it and a lot of spin,” New Mexico State’s Briana Ainsworth said. “She was going back there and cranking it. A lot of our passes got shanked or went off the net.”
New Mexico State coach Mike Jordan cited Johnson’s serves while talking with Ulmer following the match.
“That last set the wheels came off on serve-receive, but you have to give Johnson credit,” Jordan said. “She was hitting a great serve.”
Johnson said she had been “patiently waiting” for Ulmer to give her more rotations.
“It happened in the third set when we broke away and then in the fourth set she broke their spirit,” Ulmer said of Johnson’s serves. “It was an impressive run and made me look like a genius for not having her serve all year.”
Lindsey Vander Weide had 18 of Oregon’s 50 kills to go with 10 digs.
“I felt like things were not clicking well with some other hitters so I know that is when I have to step up an do my job,” Vander Weide said.
August Raskie had 37 assists and Brooke Nuneviller added 13 digs as the Ducks (21-10) advanced to face 25th-ranked Baylor (20-8) in the second round at 7 p.m. Friday.
Taylor Borup returned to the starting lineup for Oregon after missing the final two games of the regular season with an ankle injury. The junior had back-to-back kills to open the game for the Ducks.
New Mexico State took a 12-8 lead in the opening set before Vander Weide got a kill to start a run of three straight points for Oregon. Vander Weide added a kill to tie the it at 13-13 before Oregon went up 16-13.
After New Mexico State cut UO’s lead to 21-18, Oregon scored three straight points to take a 24-18 lead. The Aggies rolled off four points in a row before a service error ended the set.
The Ducks led 14-13 in the second set before New Mexico State scored six straight points, including the final three on aces from Tatyana Battle. The Aggies stretched the lead to 22-15 before winning 25-18.
“We started pressing,” Ulmer said. “When things don’t go well, we try to do too much and try to be perfect. We get tight and when you get tight, you make mistakes.”
Oregon led 16-13 in the third set before scoring four straight points on serves by Johnson. New Mexico State closed within 24-21 before Brooke Van Sickle got a kill to end the set.
Baylor 3, Hawaii 2: Shelly Fanning had 18 kills as No. 25 Baylor rallied for a 23-25, 23-25, 25-14, 26-24, 16-14 win over Hawaii in Thursday's first match at Matthew Knight Arena. Hannah Lockin had 31 assists and seven digs for the Bears (20-8), who arrived off a second-place finish in the Big 12. Aniah Philo had a team-high 21 digs to go with 14 kills while Tara Wulf added 18 digs. Yossiana Presley had 17 kills and nine digs for Baylor while Hannah Fluegel added 18 assists and nine digs. After dropping the first two sets, Baylor dominated the third set. Hawaii led 21-19 trying to close out the match in the fourth set before the two teams were tied four times down the stretch. The Rainbow Wahine tied the match at 24-24 before Baylor scored the next two points. Hawaii took a 7-4 lead in the fifth set before Baylor went ahead 10-9. After the match was tied 14-14, Baylor scored the final two points culminating with a kill from Gia Milana. McKenna Granato and Norene Iosla each had 11 kills to lead Hawaii (18-9).