Vikings volleyball hits the road to face Northern Colorado for first place in the Big Sky
Portland State volleyball sits atop the Big Sky standings only a half game ahead of the Northern Colorado Bears. This weekend, the coveted top spot will be on the line, as the Vikings (13-11 overall, 9-3 conference) face a stern road test in second place Northern Colorado later tonight.
Portland State will then take on the fifth place Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (15-5 overall, 6-4 conference) on Saturday in Flagstaff, Ariz. Portland State holds a slight lead in the title race, but all three teams this weekend mathematically still have a shot at the Big Sky regular season championship. With less than five games left in the season for each team, every matchup has added significance this weekend.
Last season, Portland State and Northern Colorado shared the Big Sky regular season title, with the Vikings edging out the Bears in the postseason championship. This time around the Bears are ranked second in Big Sky with their 15-8 overall and 8-3 conference record. Until last weekend, the Bears had held the top spot in the conference, but are now just short of the Vikings and also only half a game ahead of Eastern Washington.
“[Northern Colorado] are a great team,” head coach Michael Seemann said. “A fantastic team, and we just have to basically go in there first of all knowing who we are going to prioritize because they’re pretty deep.”
The Vikings will need to focus on Northern Colorado’s depth both offensively and defensively. Last week, Northern Colorado displayed their abilities on the defensive side against Sacramento State. Bears senior libero Amanda Arterburn registered 21 digs, her fourth consecutive 20-plus outing. Bears sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Wilson grabbed 16 digs, and junior outside hitter Kelley Arnold had 14 digs along with 16 kills in that game as well.
“We’re going to have to make plays at the net,” Seemann said. “It’s a team that is very punchy offensively, so if we’re not blocking well I think we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
Like the Bears, Portland State is also coming off a winning weekend. They finished a successful home slate with dominating wins against Montana and Montana State. Junior outside hitter Megan Ellis secured a double-double against Montana with 20 kills and 12 digs, and against Montana State, sophomore outside hitter Aubrey Mitchell and freshman outside hitter Tineke Bierma both posted double digit kills.
On defense, the Vikings bring a strong front row. The team outblocked both Montana opponents over weekend. Freshman middle blocker Katie O’Brien grabbed eight blocks, including a number of crucial stops down the stretch against the Lady Grizzlies.
On Saturday evening, Portland State plays fifth place Northern Arizona on the road, a team looking for a late season surge to secure one of the four spots in the conference tournament.
Northern Arizona’s main offensive threat are a pair of outside hitters, juniors Lauren Cambell and Lexi Sullivan. The duo both put up 21 kills apiece against Sacramento State last week, finishing their first-ever season sweep of the Hornets. Sullivan leads the Lumberjacks in total kills for the season.
Portland State outside hitter Mitchell knows the team faces an important and challenging weekend, but has confidence that if the team keeps playing like they have, then momentum will be on their side.
“I think trusting out system being able to do what we can do is a big thing,” Mitchell said. “We have great servers, we have great passers, and we take really big swings, so if we execute our system again we can do anything.”
Both this weekend’s away matches are slated for a 6 p.m. start and can be followed on goviks.com.