Matt Ulmer told the Oregon volleyball team to pack for a two-week trip to Minnesota.
The 15th-seeded Ducks (22-10) are in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament where they will face second-seeded Minnesota (27-3) at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis. The winner of that match will face either seventh-seeded Nebraska or No. 10 Kentucky in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
If Oregon wins twice this weekend, it would stay in Minneapolis to prepare for the Final Four at Target Center beginning Dec. 13.
“We are packing for the long haul,” Ulmer said. “I told them that they need to do some laundry and pack everything up.”
The Ducks are the lowest seed of the four teams in Minneapolis this week, but take confidence from their win over Minnesota nearly three months ago when the Gophers were ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“We will be there a while,” senior setter August Raskie said of the road trip.
Oregon’s optimism also comes from a 10-3 record on the road this season, including four wins over ranked teams. The Ducks have nothing but ranked teams on the road remaining on their schedule this season.
“For me, it is no fear,” Raskie said of UO’s success on the road. “We have a big crowd when we come home and there is that pressure there. When we go on the road, the pressure is on them because they have the crowd and the expectations. We are just there to play good volleyball.”
Minnesota expects a sellout crowd of more than 5,000 to greet the Ducks.
“We like being on the road, that’s not a secret,” Ulmer said. “We like hostile environments and we kind of like it when people are talking to us. They like proving people wrong. That is just the MO of this group. I think this group likes being the underdog, which I can’t stand, but that is what we are. On the road, we have handled ourselves pretty well. It will be another tough environment and I’d like to see us handle ourselves again.”
The Ducks defeated the Gophers 25-23, 25-23, 25-27, 25-23 on Sept. 7 during a tournament at Stanford in front of a crowd of 545.
“It was kind of quiet when we played before,” Ulmer said. “Emotionally, they will be a little higher (at home).”
The same may be true for Oregon.
“I think our connection with each other is better on the road,” Oregon junior Willow Johnson said. “We have better energy because we are not trying to feed off our fans, we have to bring our own.”