As the University of Oregon prepares for fall sports to kickoff, it’s not just the football team facing high expectations. After a run to the NCAA Division I Championship, the women’s volleyball team will take Matthew Knight Arena with a new sense of anticipation and a No. 8 slot in the AVCA national preseason poll. While Oregon rode the shoulders of National Player of the Year Alaina Bergsma last season, this year a handful of returners will have the experience and athleticism necessary to fill in the gaps.
Two All-Americans return to the team and will undoubtedly be expected to lead on the court this year. The standouts include 4 –sport athlete Liz Brenner, who was named a second team All-American as a sophomore and finished the year as a Sullivan Award Finalist. Brenner will hold down the outside hitter position after leading the nation in kills per set and leading the Ducks in hits in 11 matches.
Holding down the setters will be senior Lauren Plum, an All-American and Pac-12 Setter of the Year. Plum led the nation in assists per set and helped UO lead the nation in kills per set last season. Plum will also be up for the Senior CLASS Award this year and less than 300 sets away from breaking the University record for total sets.
The Ducks also sport plenty of other talents from last season. Sophomore Canace Finley led the team in blocks per set last season and is expected to continue starting at an outside blocking position. Joining Finley and Brenner will be sophomore Martenne Bettendorf. Bettendorf saw action in 29 matches last season and ranked second among freshmen in kills per set, hitting, and blocks.
Despite Oregon’s talent and experience, the team will be facing top competition nationally. In the recent AVCA poll, the Pac-12 was well represented in the top 10. The Ducks will face Stanford (third), USC (fourth), and Washington (fifth) during conference play, making it no easy road to regain their place at the top.
The Ducks make their debut on Friday for the Oregon Classic at Matthew Knight Arena. The team will fast Eastern Washington, Bryant, and Ohio. The Ducks have won their last nine season openers and will be prepared to start their year off on the right foot with wins at home. Despite the loss of key players, the Ducks will fill in with the same athleticism and power that thrust them to the top last season, putting them in position create a legacy of volleyball dominance.