The Portland State volleyball team brought their “A” game to the Big Sky’s top team, sweeping Sacramento State in front of a raucous crowd at the Stott Center on Thursday night.
Coming into Thursday’s match Sacramento State had yet to suffer a Big Sky loss, dropping only two games the entire season. In a matter of one match, a determined and energized Vikings team handed the Hornets their first loss in conference play and more than doubled the Hornets’ losses for the season.
”It feels terrific; this is a big win for us,” said head coach Jeff Mozzochi. “Coming into the game, we had a game plan to beat Sacramento State. Our kids came out and executed a large portion of that game plan, which allowed us to take a lot away from them offensively.”
Entering the match, Portland State had some unfinished business to tend to with the Sac State. In their meeting earlier this season the Hornets steamrolled the Vikings, sweeping an uncharacteristically unmotivated and flat Vikings squad. Avenging this humiliating loss undoubtedly served as motivation for the Viks, as they wanted to prove to Sacramento State and any critics that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Big Sky.
”We had a bad taste in our mouths from the last time we played them, so we had a goal to take care of business when they came to our house,” said senior libero Sarah Sirianni. “We knew that we had to have a lot of energy and intensity to execute our game plan and stay on top of them.”
From the outset of game one to the final point of game three, the Vikings played like they wanted and needed the win just a little more than the Hornets. Every time a situation called for a big play, right on cue one of the Vikings would step up and convert. This inspired, timely play made the difference in the match as the Vikings prevailed when faced with late-game surges in both games one and three, and made a final push to come back in game two. While the Viks thrived under pressure the Hornets folded, committing error after error at crucial moments.
”Any time a team is making errors like Sacramento State, you have to give the other team some credit because they are putting pressure on them,” said Mozzochi. “They made more errors tonight than they are used to, but some of that goes to us getting them out of their system.”
On a night where their offense was sputtering, accumulating a .123 hitting percentage, the Vikings needed a spectacular performance from their defense to stand a chance against the talented Hornets. The Viks’ defense met the challenge as they clamped down on the Hornets’ attack all night long, only allowing a .124 hitting percentage and 38 kills from the normally imposing Hornets’ offense.
Another test that the Vikings passed with flying colors was containing Sacramento State middle blocker Michelle Franz. Coming into the match Franz led the conference with a .361 hitting percentage and 1.79 blocks per game, but on this night the Viks held the Hornets’ multidimensional star to only four kills, a porous .053 hitting percentage and two blocks.
As the Viks defense shut down the opposing offense, their offense was shut down as well. Despite the rough offensive night overall, sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Steele enjoyed a solid day with 12 kills and a .275 hitting percentage. The senior outside hitting duo of Jessica Frederick and Jessica Brodie contributed as usual, fueling the Viking offense with a combined 23 kills. Brodie also had 17 digs.
With the win over their biggest rival, the Vikings improve to 14-6 overall and 9-2 against conference foes. Their next test will be against Idaho State at the Stott Center on Saturday night.