On Saturday night, the Vikings’ remarkable season—and Big Sky Conference Championship victory hopes—came to an end when they lost to Idaho State in straight sets. The No. 2 seed Vikings were upset by No. 3 seed Bengals in the finals with scores of 25–18, 29–27 and 25–20.
Junior Kasimira “Kasi” Clark made some active plays in the match, ultimately posting 17 digs. The Vikings had 42 kills overall, and senior outside hitters Kaeli Patton and Aubrey Mitchell led the team with 11 kills each. Fellow senior Garyn Schlatter had some highlight-reel plays, posting 39 assists. While the Vikings fought hard, the Bengals took control of the match, out-digging 60–44 and outhitting 0.306 to 0.213.
When asked what she felt went wrong in the match, Senior Jaklyn Wheeler said, “I think we kind of just ended up trying too hard. We were just trying so hard to execute our game plan, and that was all we were trying to do. We weren’t adjusting that well.”
The Vikings couldn’t fully get into their rhythm, and Idaho State took advantage of that at the start of the match, scoring 25–18. However, during the second set of the match the Vikings were leading for most of the set, but the Bengals caught up to them at 14–14. The teams went back and forth, but the Bengals wouldn’t allow PSU to pull ahead, ultimately tying the score again at 24–24. The Vikings eventually lost the second set with a score of 29–27. The Vikings played another close set, but failed to bring it home, with the third set ending 25–20.
When asked what he thought went wrong in the match for his team, head coach Michael Seemann said, “I think we were never really getting a good serving rhythm, and I felt like we weren’t getting a lot of stops on their part in terms of being able to either control them at the net or create swings and transitions. We didn’t do either one of those things.”
He added, “Idaho State had what one might call a killer instinct. They did take big swings. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to play like them; we just have to get some stops somewhere and some touches, and we just didn’t do that. When you let a team like that go off on two or three runs every time they serve, then they’re going to beat you.”
With six seniors leaving the team, how will the next year pan out? Seemann said, “We have people that are in important positions and it usually requires experience to get good at, and I think in that regard, the future is bright. I also think the kids we have coming in, they have a competitive killer attitude. I’m excited about the kids coming in and I think that blend, with the experience we have in those positions, we’ll be good.”
He added, “Even how involved they’ve been in the recruiting process for the girls who are coming back, they have taken this program and kind of given it their identity and so they have taken interest, which they should, in the incoming kids and they actually helped recruit those kids coming in, so I think their [bond] will not only continue but will strengthen.”
The Vikings earned the Big Sky regular season title for the second consecutive season and finished 21–11 overall. Seemann has performed impressively for the seven years he has been coaching at PSU, and this marks his sixth season with 20 or more wins. Saturday’s match was also the farewell to Schlatter, Mitchell, Wheeler and Patton, as well as fellow seniors Cara Olden and Mariko Kawashima.
Wheeler spoke about her finest memories and highlights of the year. “They are the best teammates any of us could ask for, and then just all of the trips we have gone on together. We went to Europe over the summer and went to Hawaii for a tournament. We had so many great memories and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, especially to experience all of that with these girls.”
Although the team wasn’t able to prevail in the finals against Idaho State on Saturday, they still had an impressive season with an exceptional squad of players. After the loss, Wheeler commented about the prospects for next season, saying “Our team [will be] losing six of us, but at the same time they’re going to have six seniors next year and they’re going to do awesome. I know they are. [We] have so many leaders out there in Kasi, Leigh [Haataja], Katie [O’Brien], Anna [DeMots], Cheyne [Corrado], Brigid [Campbell], all of them. They are going to do well. They’re going to teach the new girls coming in our system what we need to do. They’ll be fine; they’ll do really well.”