Vikings lose in Sacramento

    A heated rivalry, two undefeated squads in conference play and a match that would decide first place in the Big Sky, the match between the Portland State volleyball team and Sacramento State on Saturday night should have been a nail-biter. However, that wasn’t the case at all as the Vikings’ top-rated offense faltered regularly and the Hornets took advantage, strolling to a three-game sweep and sole possession of first place in the Big Sky standings.

    Coming into the conference-headlining match against Sacramento State, the Vikings’ offensive production wasn’t even questioned as they led the conference in both kills and service aces. Instead, the major concern was the performance of Portland State’s frontline with their most effective middle blocker, junior Michelle Robertson, still hobbled with an ailing ankle injury.

    As it turned out, the Viks’ concerns were only concerns and it was the least of their worries that actually plagued them. The Vikings’ front line outplayed the Hornets at the net all night long, ending the match with 11 blocks to the Hornets’ 10 and a team-high four blocks for Robertson. Portland State’s offense was everything but a sure bet as they sputtered to a pedestrian .116 hitting percentage and a meager three service aces in the three-game sweep.

    The opening game was dominated early and often by the Hornets. Sacramento State jumped out of the gates strong to start the match, securing a 3-0 lead that forced the Vikings to play from behind for the rest of the match. Although the Viks never led during game one, they were able to pull even on a few occasions, notching the score up at 12 and 23. After a kill by senior outside hitter Jessica Brodie, who finished with a game-high 14 kills, brought the score even at 23, the Vikings absolutely fell apart, dropping five straight points and eventually losing the match by a score of 30-27.

    Portland State led for the first time in the match with the score at 4-3 in the opening moments of a more competitive game two. The match was so competitive that there were a total of 18 lead changes during the game, as the two teams continuously battled for supremacy. But in the end, Sacramento State proved their dominance by establishing a lead late in the game and never looking back, all the way to a 32-30 victory, and only one game away from securing first place in the conference standings.

    With the results of the first two games still lingering in the minds of the Viking players, it appeared that they experienced some trouble staying focused during the third game. The scoring was so one-sided that by the time the Viks accumulated nine points and were on the verge of hitting double figures for the first time in the game, the Hornets had already taken command of the game with 20 points of their own. Only needing 10 additional points, the Hornets coasted through the waning moments of the game and walked away with a victory in the third and final game of the match at 30-16.

    While the Vikings’ poor performance failed to generate a standout performance by any one particular player, senior outside hitter Jessica Frederick had the best all-around match with a team high .348 hitting percentage and 10 kills. One of the only bright spots for the Viks was the promising play of Robertson. She will be key as the season progresses and each point becomes absolutely crucial due to her uncanny ability to plug up the middle. She makes it extremely difficult for opponents to squeeze a kill shot through her arms.

    As a testament to their performance on the court, Sacramento State didn’t have just one player with a complete game; they had three. Junior middle hitters Lindsay Haupt and Michelle Franz led the way for the Hornets, combining for 25 kills, 10 blocks and .357 and .364 hitting percentages respectively. The other Hornet that made a significant contribution was senior outside hitter Atlee Hubbard, who concluded the match with 10 kills, three service aces and 16 digs.

    The Vikings may have had issues with getting their offense running on all cylinders, but they didn’t have any trouble with the defense because it was solid all night long. For the second time this season, Portland State suffered a loss in a match where they finished with either more or the same number of blocks and digs as their opponent. In this match the Viks topped Sacramento State’s 72 digs and 10 blocks with a 72-dig and 11-block performance.

    With a loss to their conference rival, the Vikings dropped to second place in the conference standings at 10-5 (5-1) and the Hornets at 10-5 (4-0) narrowly slipped into first place with the sweep. In the upcoming week the Vikings will take the tough trip north to Montana to try their luck against Montana on Thursday and Montana State on Saturday.