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December 14, 2012

Womens volleyball advances to National Championship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The #5-seeded University of Oregon volleyball team (30-4) upset a top-ranked Penn State team (33-3) for the second time in as many years in the Ducks' first-ever NCAA semifinal match Thursday night.

In front of a crowd of 13,385, UO staked a 21-25, 30-28, 25-22, 25-19 victory to end the Nittany Lions' quest for an sixth national title.

Thursday's decision at the KFC Yum! Center means UO will play #3 seed Texas (28-4) on Saturday evening at 4 p.m. PT on ESPN2 / ESPN3.com. The Longhorns earned their bid after a 3-2 win over Michigan immediately before on Thursday evening.

In the team stat comparisons, UO tied its season high in blocks (10) to make up for its second-lowest hitting mark of the of the season (.170) that was partly attributed to Penn State's 19.5 blocks.

Conversely, the Ducks held an opponent to .200 or below for the 22nd time this year, and the Lions' mark (.165) was its season low and only their second below .200 on the campaign.

The balanced Duck offense featured three hitters with +10 kills for the 15th time this season, and the trio also staked double-doubles - sophomore outside hitter Liz Brenner (17 kills, 17 digs), and senior outside hitters Alaina Bergsma (16K, 15D) and Katherine Fischer (16K, 12D).

Freshman middle blocker Canace Finley led in blocks (6) for the 11th time this year, and tied her and Bergsma's season high. The Fort Collins, Colo., native added sx kills and hit .417 - the only Duck hitter to top .250 on the night.

Brenner and junior middle blocker Ariana Williams added four blocks, and Bergsma ended withi three.

Also on defense, senior libero Haley Jacob topped the team in digs (20) and logged her 11th 20-dig night of the year and 25th career-wise.

For Penn State, its top offensive players were Ariel Scott (18 kills, .231, 5 blocks) and Deja McClendon (14 kills, .120, 9 digs, 3 aces). Other category leaders included Micha Hancockk (45), Dominique Gonzalez (22) and Katie Slay (7 blocks).

Thursday's match was a rematch of sorts between the two teams who had met in late August 2011 to open the season. That similarly-manned but unranked Duck squad won 3-1 over the then-four-time defending national champions, and ended their NCAA-record, 94-match home winning streak.

More importantly, the list of 'firsts' continues for the Duck program. UO upped its school record tally to 30 wins after it took a best-ever second-place in the Pac-12 Conference with a 16-4 league mark.

Its pair of wins in the Omaha Regional were its first-ever in NCAA Regional play, and now it plays for an obvious first national championship against a Texas squad that has won win, and two runner-up finishes in school history.

"Toinight was extremely exciting," Brenner said, "and we can't wait until Saturday night. The longer we keep playing, the more fun we have. We know Texas is a great team, so it will be fun to have a chance to play them for the national championship. We have lots of work to do before then, and then we will take it one play at a time."

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