Oregon Volleyball Will Sink or Swim

After being picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 preseason coaches’ poll, the Ducks prepare for challenges

Head Coach Jim Moore says every Pac-12 match will be a dog fight this year.

By UO student Lili Wagner

Following a recent team-building weekend spent rafting the waters of the McKenzie River and hiking the slopes of South Sister, Oregon’s volleyball team returned to Eugene and began practicing for its fall season. Following last year’s fourth-place conference finish and second round exit from the NCAA tournament, the Ducks are back in Matt Knight Arena to commence the program’s tenth season under Head Coach Jim Moore.

After being picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 preseason coaches’ poll, the Ducks are ready to take to the court, anticipating an exciting conference season. Senior outside hitter Liz Brenner, who finished first in the Pac-12 last season in kills per set with 4.67, was named to the preseason all-conference team.

“I think we are legitimately better but we’ve got to prove it,” Moore said of the team’s fifth place pick during the recent Green vs. Yellow Scrimmage. “We have the potential of being very, very good.”

Nationally, the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason coaches’ poll awarded the Ducks the most points of any team outside of the top 25. But Oregon’s upcoming schedule includes challenging matches against six members of the top 25, including No. 3 Stanford, No. 4 Washington, No. 5 USC, and No. 25 Arizona State, all representing the Pac-12.

The Ducks have strong returning players in addition to Brenner, including sophomore libero Amanda Benson, who was named to the Pac-12 All Freshmen Team last year, junior outside hitter Martenne Bettendorf, who finished last season as the team’s third-leading attacker, senior middle blocker Serena Warner, who finished last season as the team’s third-leading blocker, and senior setter Shellsy Ashen, who played in all 32 of Oregon’s matches last season and recorded double-doubles against Arizona and California.

The team includes five incoming freshman, all sporting impressive accolades from their prep experience, and two transfers from within the Pac-12. Moore said youth is one of the challenges the team will have to overcome in the upcoming season.

The team also boasts an experienced coaching staff. Head Coach Jim Moore is entering his tenth season with Oregon, and was named the 2012 Volleyball Magazine National Coach of the Year. Assistant Coach Stacy Metro coached two outside hitters to All-America status in 2012—Alaina Bergsma, who was named a 2012 First Team All-American and AVCA National Player of the Year; and Liz Brenner, who was named to the All-American Second Team in both 2012 and 2013. Fresh face Matt Ulmer comes to Oregon as an assistant coach from Long Beach State, where he was a full-time assistant coach for five seasons.

Tragically, the program recently suffered the loss of former Assistant Coach Matt Hartner, who passed away in his sleep last week. Hartner had been involved with Oregon volleyball for more than a decade, after joining the squad as an undergraduate manager in 2002. Moore has voiced that the team will honor Hartner’s memory by being the best they can be.

The Ducks begin their season in an exciting position. Ready for challenging matches against elite teams, Oregon volleyball has the opportunity to prove itself. In a sink or swim situation, the Ducks will follow their natural inclination to swim. Moore advised not to miss a game saying, “Every Pac-12 match is going to be an absolute dog fight this year.”

After the Alumnae Match on August 23, the Ducks begin their season hosting the Oregon Invitational. This year, 96 Pac-12 games will be televised on Pac-12 Networks. More schedule information can be found at goducks.com.