Coming off a conference championship, the Portland State volleyball team is using this summer to gear up for a repeat. And with less than two months until the first match, all the off-season training is about to be put to the test. Adding two freshmen outside hitters in Megan Ellis and Alexa Rosendale, and one sophomore transfer middle blocker in Lana Zielke to the roster, the team is dominated by experienced upperclassmen.
Task one: prepare
Coming off a conference championship, the Portland State volleyball team is using this summer to gear up for a repeat. And with less than two months until the first match, all the off-season training is about to be put to the test.
Adding two freshmen outside hitters in Megan Ellis and Alexa Rosendale, and one sophomore transfer middle blocker in Lana Zielke to the roster, the team is dominated by experienced upperclassmen.
Last year, the Vikings graduated only one senior, Big Sky All-Conference performer Michelle Segun, which leaves the team with 11 returning players from the title-winning squad.
Having that many players available to workout during the off-season is a unique advantage.
“We have been able to play six-on-six, which is uncommon during the off-season,” head coach Michael Seemann said. “I have high expectations [of the team] since we have experienced a full year together.”
In his second year as head coach–and fourth year with the program–Seemann expects the upcoming season to help shape the program’s identity.
“This year we will begin to define what we will be as a program,” Seemann said.
As the roster transitions from primarily underclassman to a more veteran squad over the course of this next season, the change will not come easy for the team’s coach. Seemann will have many decisions to make.
“There is tremendous depth on the roster,” he said. “It will be like moving around puzzle pieces trying to figure out how to play everyone.”
With the graduation of Segun, junior defensive specialist Jalen Pendon and junior setter Dominique Fradella have taken on leadership roles as unofficial captains.
“Jalen is a leader both on and off the court, making sure everyone stays focused,” Seemann said.
Fradella’s intense work ethic has established her as another person qualified to fill the role of captain, however, Seemann said there is a possibility he could identify a third player to officially take on the leadership responsibilities.
Pendon said she wants to “lead by example” being the lone senior on this year’s squad. She too has high expectations of the team, as her goal is to go to the NCAA Tournament, a feat that the Vikings have yet to accomplish at the Division I level.
“Last year we missed it by one place,” Pendon said. “This year we know what we have to do and are dedicated to getting there.”
Even though spring training ended May 10, many athletes chose to stay and train together, Seemann said. However, NCAA regulations limit the amount of contact a coach can have with the team.
“There are quite a few players who stayed around,” Pendon said. “We play at Woksup and also lift on our own time.”
Woksup is a restaurant with four sand courts in Southeast Portland.
With the amount of time and energy devoted to working out at places like Woksup over the past few weeks, the Vikings are proving that summer is an important time leading up to the season.
“Everyone being here over the summer helps us build chemistry with each other,” Pendon said. “You get to know your teammates more so you can play better together.”
After preseason tournaments in Corvallis and Seattle, the team will return to the Stott Center for the first home game Thursday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.
By then, the puzzle Seemann has been racking his brain over may almost be complete, signaling that the Vikings are ready to defend their crown and take a shot at the NCAA Tournament.