Big Sky volleyball teams have started to jockey for position as conference play has begun over the last two weeks. Portland State, who lost their first two conference matches on the road, hoped to get a pair of wins with home matches against Weber State and Idaho State.
PSU split the weeks’ matchups and are currently tied with Weber State for the fourth spot in the South Big Sky Division. The top four teams from the north and south divisions will play in the conference tournament in late November.
On Thursday, Weber State was in town for an evening matchup. While Weber State outhit PSU .152–.147, the Vikings stepped up in this matchup and made key plays when it counted. The Vikings won the match in four sets and afterward head coach Michael Seemann was pleased with the effort his team showed.
“They worked hard tonight,” Seemann said. “It wasn’t a very pretty match, but I felt like they persevered, they competed and they found a way to get it done.”
Part of the challenge this team has faced early is getting so many new players up to speed with the collegiate game. Several freshmen have been thrust into key roles from game one of the season. While certain new players are posting good numbers and contributing, there’s a lack of cohesion, which is not resulting in wins.
Against Weber State, a new face, Emani Jackson, received her first playing time of the year. Roni LaPierre is also making a name for herself, both as a starter and coming off the bench. She’s led the team in kills and racked up three double-doubles so far. Perhaps the most all around productive newcomer is setter Erin Clark. She has already had five 40-plus assist matches and her efforts against Weber State were essential.
“Erin did a good job of figuring out the puzzle offensively. She struggled in the beginning, I thought, but then started figuring out how to get hitters going,” said Seemann.
Later, Idaho State was in town for a weekend afternoon game. They were undefeated in Big Sky play, leading the south division. While PSU was leading during several sets against the conference powerhouse, they ultimately fell in three straight sets by scores of 25–22, 25–22 and 25–17. Many times the PSU team has been in position to win a set, but volleyball is a game where momentum can shift dramatically from one play to the next.
“A lot of that is nerves and not willing to take swings when we could,” said Seeman.
Going forward, PSU volleyball must protect their home court advantage. The Lady Viks were 2–9 in pre-conference play, going winless away from the Peter W. Stott Center. Coach Seemann has an excellent home-winning percentage (.831) during his tenure. So far this year they are 1–2. Next week they’ll have the opportunity for a pair of home matchups against Idaho and Dam Cup rival Eastern Washington. All home games are free for PSU students with a student ID card and offer free soda, popcorn and hotdogs. Visit goviks.com for a full schedule of all PSU athletics.
The time for rewriting the PSU volleyball history books is getting closer. Defending Big Sky Libero of the Year Kashmira “Kasi” Clark just moved into sole possession of second place all-time in digs. She is at 1,604, only 138 behind the all-time record. There are 12 games left before the conference tournament and Clark is averaging 4.2 digs per set.
Coach Seemann and his team certainly hope their season continues into the Big Sky tournament. The Vikings are the two-time defending conference regular season champions and last won the tournament in 2010. Seemann sees the start of conference play as the real beginning of competitive play.
“There’s more immediacy. We can call a lot of those pre-conference matches learning points through losses and wins. Like every team, we are vying for a spot in the conference tournament.”