Oregon State Volleyball snaps losing streak, looks to build momentum

In this file photo from 2019, OSU Volleyball junior libero Grace Massey leads the team’s celebration. Massey finished with 27 digs in the Beavers’ win on Feb. 11, a season high for the senior.

Ben Rabbino, Sports Contributor

Thursday, Feb. 11 saw for a hard-fought match from the Oregon State Volleyball team, right from the opening serve inside of legendary Gill Colosseum. 

The Beavers ultimately found success against the Arizona State Sun Devils, ending a three-game losing slide by earning a 3-2 win. 

After dropping the close first set 27-25, Head Coach Mark Barnard made an emphasis to be more aggressive at the net, and to encourage the increased play of freshman Mychael Vernon. Scoring five points through the first set, Vernon made her presence felt in the second set, which the Beavers handily won 25-16, converting another six kills to bring her total to 11 points through two sets.

During that second set, Oregon State managed to play more aggressively than the Sun Devils were, getting a lot of at the net action from the senior Maddie Goings, who scored five points alone in the second set. Freshman  Aliyah McDonald contributed to that nine-point set win, with three points of her own.

The third set, however, was for the Sun Devils what it was for the Beavers in the second– a dominant effort from their team. They took advantage of interpersonal team mistakes that were made by the Beavers and controlled the set. Getting to a lead of 16-4, Barnard was forced to call a timeout and try to recalibrate his team to make a comeback and avoid the score deficit. 

Although a slight comeback occurred following the break, with the Beavs going on a thirteen to seven run bringing the score to 23-17, hope of pulling off the comeback was quickly diminished as the Sun Devils pulled out the third set 25-18, bringing their match lead to 2-1.

At this point, Vernon was carrying the lead for the Beavers with 14 points, with McDonald creating a positive impact of her own with 10 points. Arizona State’s freshman outside hitter Marta Levinska had been leading the scoring on the Sun Devils side of things, with 16 points through three sets and the majority of those points resulting from her net kills.

Entering the fourth set, the Beavers knew that the match was on the line and that any amount of energy had to be exerted onto the floor at this moment. The team was playing more in-sync, and it was visible to the eye. An increase in communication and movement from the six Oregon State players resulted in more offensive plays at the net, confusing the Sun Devil defense. 

For the Beavers, senior Grace Massey was all over on defense, diving for many saves heading towards the floor. But freshman defensive specialist Ellie Turner helped sparked the team’s energy with a flame of her own. After not receiving the benefit of the doubt from a referee review sequence. 

In a close moment of the set, where the Beavers were down 22-20, the referees were examining if the ball had hit the ground before her hand, and after reviewing they deemed their call to be confirmed, that the ball had hit the ground first. Visibly upset by the call, Turner was able to turn the frustration into the energy the team needed, scoring the next two points to tie the set up at twenty-two a piece, and continuing that energy to win the set 29-27, tying up the match 2-2.

The Beavers made their endurance felt entering the fifth and final set, playing faster and more efficiently than the Sun Devils at this point. Vernon led the way for the Beavers through this set, scoring four points in the final set alone to build a lead which the Beavers never lost. With the set’s final score at 15-11, the Beaver’s were able to see victory for the first time and won this match 3-2.

Now with a record of 3-5 in the PAC-12 conference, after defeating the Sun Devils in a 3-2 match the following day, Barnard has plenty to look forward to with his team back on the right track. 

Notably, this is the first time that the standout freshman Vernon was able to play in Gill Coliseum, and her impact within the home stadium is felt. Barnard at times would play five freshmen on the floor at once, allowing Vernon to showcase her leadership qualities among her teammates. 

As a group, the Beavers tallied up 54 assists and 62 kills, and the majority of those assists were due to movement at the net, something that Barnard emphasized that he wanted to work on in the practices preceding this match.

Looking ahead, the Beavers will be traveling to play the Arizona Wildcats on Friday, Feb. 18 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats currently stand at 2-6 this season, but remain just one spot behind the Beavers in the PAC-12 rankings.

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