Oregon splits Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, highlighted by upset win

With the program’s first victory over a No. 1-ranked opponent in six years, the Oregon Ducks came out even in the first year of the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge.

In their last matches against top-ranked opponents for this preseason, the No. 18 Ducks (5-3) ended the weekend with an upset win over No. 1 Minnesota, 3-1, and a three-set loss to No. 5 Penn State.

Oregon opened the tournament with a four-set win Friday evening against the Gophers, with final set scores of 25-23, 25-23, 25-27 and 25-23. The victory gave head coach Matt Ulmer his second win over a top-five team as Oregon’s head coach.

The Ducks outperformed Minnesota by hitting 0.298. The last time Oregon defeated a No.1 team was in the 2012 Final Four against Penn State.

Oregon began the match with heavy speed, getting to a 20-15 lead in set one, thanks to six kills from Lauren Page. A Ronika Stone kill and a Minnesota error allowed the Ducks to earn the first set win of 25-23.

In the second set, Minnesota attack errors once again gave Oregon leeway to pull ahead. With three consecutive kills from Page, Stone and Lindsey Vander Weide, the Ducks took the set, 25-23.

The Gophers (5-1) took set three, for their only win of the day, 27-25.

The teams battled back-to-back points in the fourth set, until Oregon’s Willow Johnson scored three kills on four points to get the Ducks ahead. A Minnesota error and a final kill by Stone secured the Ducks the upset victory with a final set win of 25-23.

“I think our ceiling is really high,” Ulmer told Go Ducks after Friday’s match. “I don’t even think we’re close to it, so I’m excited to see where we go from here.”

Stone led the Ducks with a career-high 19 kills while hitting 0.615. Page followed with a career-high 16 kills, and Johnson earned 16 kills as well. Setter August Raskie had a career-high 66 assists, the most for an Oregon Duck in a single match since Lauren Plum’s 68 in the 2012 Sweet 16.

On Saturday, the Ducks lost Friday’s momentum and fell, 0-3, to No. 5 Penn State, 25-23, 25-23 and 25-19.

The Ducks racked up a total of 21 attack errors during the match with Vander Weide responsible for a third of the errors. Penn State (6-1) held strong on defense with 14.5 successful blocks, while Oregon ended the match with five blocks.

Oregon lost control of the match during the third set, dropping by as much as 10 to Penn State. Even after a late 7-2 run, Oregon couldn’t keep up with the Nittany Lions, losing the third and final set, 25-19.

Johnson led the team with 11 kills, followed by Vander Weide’s nine. Raskie earned her third double-double of the season with 28 assists and 10 digs. And Brooke Van Sickle’s two aces totaled her to 16 so far this season, a number that leads the Pac-12.

The Ducks will take their another road trip to Honolulu, Hawaii next week to complete their nonconference play this season. Oregon will play the Rainbow Warriors on both Thursday and Friday at 10 p.m. (PT).

Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter: @maggie_vanoni

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