Too soon an end

Ending the season far too early, the Portland State women’s volleyball team suffered a shocking defeat to Northern Colorado, 3-1, in the championship match of the Big Sky tournament.

Ending the season far too early, the Portland State women’s volleyball team suffered a shocking defeat to Northern Colorado, 3-1, in the championship match of the Big Sky tournament.

Hitting a dry spell at the worst possible time, the Vikings failed to finish above .200 hitting in either of their games in the tournament. Normally relying on the arm of junior outside hitter Whitney Phillips to do the heavy lifting, Portland State looked lost offensively when she couldn’t find her rhythm.

“I felt like we got beat tonight. We got outplayed,” said head coach Michael Seemann.

It is easy to see why Seemann felt that way. After the Viks dropped the first set 25-17, they didn’t look comfortable for the rest of the night.

Portland State appeared to turn a corner with a second-set win that tied the match one-all, but they fell behind early in the third set—something that plagued them all weekend. Making a late five-point run with the Bears up 12, Portland State’s offense sputtered out again before losing 25-21 and falling to 2-1 on the night.

Even when the Vikings got it going offensively, Northern Colorado always seemed to have an answer. With next to nothing left in the tank, the Vikings played hard to the end but were unable to stop the surging Bears, who won 25-19 in the final stanza.

The Bears were deserving of their first Big Sky Championship in any sport. They played like the more inspired team and led for nearly the entire match. Tournament MVP Kenzie Shreeve paced all players with 28 kills, and was practically unblockable all night as she continuously found holes in the Vikings’ defense.

Shreeve and Phillips were named to the Big Sky Championship All-Tournament Team, along with senior setter Nique Fradella. Also earning all-tournament honors were freshman setter Marissa Hughes and senior middle blocker Allison Raguse of Northern Colorado, and junior middle blockers Sara Todorovich and Chenoa Covaire from Eastern Washington.

Despite the tough loss and failure to earn an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, Portland State put together a season that will not soon be forgotten. The Vikings strung together a record fifth consecutive season of 20-plus wins, and added another regular-season championship to their trophy case.

Along with matching their best conference record ever for volleyball, this season’s squad was ranked near the top of every statistical category in the Big Sky for much of the season.

“We had a lot of contributions from a lot of different people, and a lot of our seniors who received limited playing time came in and did a great job,” Seemann said. “We fell short of the one last goal that we wanted, which was to win both the regular season and conference tournament championships—Northern Colorado earned it tonight.”

With a season full of highlights, the Vikings won for the first time ever at Sacramento State and set a new school record of 10 consecutive match wins. With every reason to hold their heads high, this year’s seniors combined for two Big Sky regular season championships and one Big Sky Tournament championship during their tenure in the South Park Blocks.

With Phillips and junior outside hitter Christie Hamilton returning, next year’s team should also have the offensive firepower to hold their own amid the Big Sky Conference.

After this year’s heartbreaking finish, the Vikings will have plenty of motivation next season and will again set their sights on the NCAA Tournament.

Big Sky Tournament Semifinals:
Portland State 3, Montana 1
Northern Colorado 3, Eastern Washington 2

Big Sky Tournament Championship:
Northern Colorado 3, Portland State 1