Viking volleyball struggles away from home

While playing 13 of their first 14 games away from home, the Portland State volleyball team has struggled to win games.

The early season was filled with tournaments and invitationals where the Lady Vikings managed a pair of wins. In their losses, the team (which features an even mix of established veterans and unproven freshmen) has battled hard but only won four sets. Six times PSU opponents have shutout the Viks.

Preconference play kicked off with the volleyball team traveling to Boise, Idaho, for the Northwest Challenge—an event PSU hosted last year. In round-robin style, matches were played against No. 4 Washington, Boise State and Gonzaga.

Washington, who has never lost to PSU at this event, won their match in three straight sets. PSU fought more valiantly against the other opponents, winning one set each match, but ultimately lost all three matches at the Northwest Challenge. Head coach Michael Seeman started three true freshmen in the season opener.

Next on the docket was the Colorado Tournament in Boulder, Colorado. In the first match against University of Colorado, PSU could not get into an offensive rhythm. They recorded their first negative hitting percentage since 2011 (-.055, 21–26–91). The Vikings lost in three sets to both the Buffaloes and Pittsburgh before finally notching their first win of the season in the final match of the tournament against Georgia Southern. The five game losing streak to open the season was the longest losing streak for PSU volleyball since 2000.

With a win under their belt, the Lady Viks headed to Norman, Oklahoma, for the Nike Invitational. The result would be the same as their previous trip: one win and a pair of losses. The win came in three sets against Lamar University, the losses to Cal State Northridge and Oklahoma University. During this event the volleyball team seemed to come together, playing on the same page and fighting hard even in defeat. Hopes were high, especially with a high profile home opener around the corner.

The Peter W. Stott Center was sold out with No. 14 Oregon in town. The nationally ranked Ducks would provide serious competition and one of the more raucous atmospheres of the year. Going into the match, PSU led the all-time series 27–19, but in recent years Oregon has been dominant, winning 19 of the last 21. Each set was a close fought battle, but the Ducks continued to win key plays. Oregon battled from behind many times and was rewarded with a 1–3 winning effort. PSU had repeated service errors in the match and seemed unable to cope with Oregon’s height. The one set PSU took over Oregon was the first since the Vikings forced a five-set match in 2010.

The last chance for PSU volleyball to get it together before conference play begins was the Washington State Tournament in Pullman, Washington. Unfortunately, the Vikings faced stiff competition against No. 23 Loyola Marymont and Pac-12’s Washington State. Both matches were ugly 0–3 losses.

Their efforts may not have resulted in as many wins as the team hoped or expected, but several players are performing at a high level. Freshman outside hitter Roni LaPierre has already racked up a pair of double-doubles and is second on the team in kills with 112. Senior outside hitter Cheyne Corrado does a little bit of everything, including leading her team in most offensive categories. Corrado has a mean serve and racked up a career-high seven aces against Oklahoma.

Overall, PSU seems to struggle against tall teams. The Vikings lost much of their height to graduation, and while they do boast five players above 6 feet, their average height is closer to 5 feet 9 inches.

Volleyball action returns to campus in early October, with conference matches against Weber State, Idaho State, Idaho and Dam Cup rival Eastern Washington.

Defending Big-Sky Libero of the Year Kasimira “Kasi” Clark is getting closer to the all-time PSU record for digs. No one throws their body on the floor to save a play like Clark. She’s not the biggest or fastest player on the court, but is usually the toughest. In 2012 she racked up more digs in a season than any PSU player in history, with 625. The school’s all-time dig record belongs to Eavi Shovlin with 1,742. Clark began the season seventh all-time and has moved up several positions game by game. She currently sits in fourth place with 1,533 digs.