There probably have been worse performances in recent years for the Oregon volleyball team but not many to rival the result Sunday at Matthew Knight Arena.
The 25th-ranked Ducks were swept by 19th-ranked California (13-1 overall, 3-1 Pac-12) and most of it was a non-competitive showing as the Bears dominated 25-14, 25-18 and 25-21.
“It’s just one of those days where nothing is working,” UO coach Matt Ulmer said.
The Bears weren’t overwhelming with a .269 hitting percentage for the match but it looked impressive compared to Oregon’s .135, a mark that was lifted from a season low only by a .324 percentage in the third set. The Ducks (5-8, 1-3) hit long and wide, served into the net and had several other mishits and various violations.
The Bears went on a 9-1 run in the first set for a 16-7 lead. Cal scored six consecutive points in the second set, part of a 10-2 run that left Oregon in a 15-8 deficit.
Oregon stayed even with Cal in the third set and even led 20-18 before the Bears scored seven of the set’s final eight points to close it out.
“It was like a chain reaction of bad things, one thing led to another, and nobody was doing their part to stabilize it until the third set,” Ulmer said of Cal scoring spurts. “Everybody got back into doing their roles and doing their part and we built some momentum there. We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.”
It’s a soul-searching time for the Ducks, who had won their previous 10 matches against Cal, seven of them by sweeps including both matches last year. The Bears have certainly stepped up their play this season, with their lone loss to No. 3 Stanford.
Bailee Huizenga led Cal on Sunday with 13 kills and a .440 hitting percentage but otherwise it was an all-around effort by the Bears. For Oregon, Willow Johnson had 10 kills and 13 digs while Brooke Nuneviller and freshman Karson Bacon each added seven kills, and Nuneviller also had 13 digs.
What was lacking, Ulmer said, was consistency across the board by the Ducks, accentuated by Cal concentrating its defensive efforts on UO kills leader Ronika Stone, limiting her to five kills and a .118 hitting percentage.
So where does it all leave the Ducks, who have now lost eight of 11 matches since a 2-0 start?
“We have pieces, we don’t have a team,” Ulmer said. “We need to become a team and right now we just don’t have that. I don’t think it’s for lack of want, it’s not for lack of effort ... we’re just making poor decisions and under stress it only gets worse.
“We have to continue to keep trying to grow and hopefully not everybody falls apart on the same day again.”
The Ducks could probably use the football equivalent of a bye but there is no break in the schedule, with the Ducks playing at No. 24 Washington State and eighth-ranked Washington next weekend.
And there’s not likely to be a sudden infusion of talent. The Ducks have several injuries to deal with, notably senior Taylor Borup still out and in a protective boot and using crutches Sunday.
“We’re playing a gantlet of great opponents when we’re not at our best,” Ulmer said. “We can’t like this feeling (of) losing. It doesn’t feel good, we don’t like it. So how determined are we to make changes?
“I hope this hurts and it’s got to hurt enough that you’re willing to make a change.”