Oregon's volleyball team found the formula to defeat Minnesota three months ago.
“You have to score, you have to keep up,” UO coach Matt Ulmer said. “We made plays on the defensive end when we absolutely had to and then we scored enough to stay in the match with them. It will be that kind of match again and then it comes down to who can get the stops at the end.”
The second-seeded Gophers (27-3) will host No. 15 Oregon (22-10) in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament at 1:30 p.m. Friday at Maturi Pavilion. It is a rematch from Sept. 7 when the Ducks defeated Minnesota 25-23, 25-23, 25-27, 25-23 during a tournament at Stanford when the Gophers were ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“That is definitely nice, knowing that we beat them before, but that was at the very beginning of the season,” Oregon junior Willow Johnson said. “They are obviously a stronger team now. Knowing that we have beaten them before, we need to come in stronger because we know they are going to want to beat us.”
Minnesota has won 22 of 23 matches since losing to the Ducks and Stanford on the same weekend and is unbeaten in 16 home matches.
“We are familiar with them so I hope we are able to get into our scouting report sooner,” Ulmer said. “We already have a pretty good idea of who they are.”
Ulmer noted that Minnesota freshman Adanna Rollins played six rotations for the first time in the match against the Ducks while sophomore outside hitter Alexis Hart was returning from an injury. Both Rollins and Hart were second-team all-Big Ten selections.
Oregon will also look different in the rematch because Lauren Page has moved to the middle and starting outside hitter Taylor Borup played in only one set against the Gophers.
“Looking back, we didn’t necessarily play a great match,” Ulmer said. “Neither side did. We both scored pretty well but nobody played a great match. I think we are both looking to improve upon what we did last time.”
Oregon junior Ronika Stone, an all-Pac-12 pick, had 19 kills on 26 attacks against Minnesota.
“During that match, Ronika had a Midas touch,” Ulmer said. “I’m sure she has their attention and respect right away coming into this match.”
Oregon setter August Raskie had 66 assists in the win over the Gophers. Her Minnesota counterpart, Samantha Seliger-Swenson, is the Big Ten player of the year.
“Any time you get those type of matchups, I think it brings out the best in August,” Ulmer said. “That’s what August really likes, the competitive side. That is her personality. She’s ready for it. Senior setter versus one another and they have some of the best stats in the country. Sixty-six assists in four sets for August last time, that’s a crazy number but it tells you how we were scoring. That is why we were able to win because we scored enough. It might take that again, but hopefully we can play a little better defense.”
Minnesota hit .295 in that match, just below its season average of .300. Oregon was at .298, well above its .264 mark for the season.
“They hit .300 and we hit .300 and then it was just about who would win the last few points,” Ulmer said. “Every set was a deuce set and the one we lost was in overtime. I assume it will be similar. If we can control our emotions and get into our game right away, it will be a great match.”