Volleyball clinches Big Sky title

Portland State women’s volleyball’s four seniors took their last stand as Viking players and led their team to a second-straight Big Sky regular season title with a 3-1 win over Sacramento State Friday in front of a loud home crowd.

Portland State women’s volleyball’s four seniors took their last stand as Viking players and led their team to a second-straight Big Sky regular season title with a 3-1 win over Sacramento State Friday in front of a loud home crowd.

The Vikings now enter the PSU-hosted conference tournament this weekend with top seeding.

For Portland State (19-8, 14-2 Big Sky Conference), Friday’s win did not come easy, as the Hornets put up a notable fight. Sac State won the first set and continued to pressure the home team in the remaining three sets.

The first set went back and forth as both teams struggled to gain a substantial lead in the match. Sophomore outside hitter Megan Ellis made a PSU kill to even the score at 18-all, but from there it was the Hornets (15-16, 8-7 Big Sky) who finally obtained the lead.

Viking errors handed the Hornets five of their remaining seven points, leaving the home team defeated 25-20 in set one.

Head coach Michael Seemann said that Sac State runs a non-traditional system, which meant his Vikings needed to play a balanced match.

“We expected them to chip and tip in certain layers and for us to pursue balls, and we came out the first set and did none of that,” Seemann said.

The PSU coach went on to say that the team made the necessary adjustments to keep them in the match. And the remaining set scores proved his statement to be true. The Viks won out the last three sets, with the second having the closest score as the Hornets fell by just three points, 25-22.

Mid-set, it appeared like the Viks would be able to take the second set without much resistance from the Hornets. PSU went on a six-point run to make the score 18-11, but Sac State seemed to have an answer for everything the Viks handed them. The Hornets came back and brought the score within just three points at 23-20.

A kill by Ellis put the Viks at set-point. The home crowd got on its feet, but it took two points by the Hornets before Portland State was able to secure the final point.

It was in the third set that the Vikings turned the match to their favor. They led the entire set and finished it off with a nine-point run to win 25-11. Sophomore setter Dominika Kristinikova set for seven of the nine points in the ending run, which Seemann said helped to get the team back in control.

“Domi’s serve really put them out of system,” Seemann said. “We were able to capitalize on that with blocks and also with good digs.”

Phillips attributed the change in performance to what she called “scrappy” play.

“It was great as a team,” she said. “We decided we were going to scrap back against them and not let the ball hit the floor. It was awesome to see how scrappy we can get.”

With the momentum of set three fueling the team, the Viks went into the last frame ahead and never looked back. They won the match set 25-15. The fans were again on their feet when match-point was in the air. Phillips had the serve, and an assist by freshman setter Garyn Schlatter gave senior outside hitter and middle blocker Christie Hamilton the ball she needed to make her final regular-season kill.

Phillips said that her and Hamilton’s performance tonight was much attributed to their four years of experience and the fact that they have seen situations like this before.

The outgoing senior also said that for them to get the kills, they needed the good balls.

“We couldn’t do it without Garyn getting us balls,” Phillips said. “That’s awesome on Garyn’s part; that says a lot about how she is going to be in four years.”

Schlatter led both teams with 47 assists—more than Sac State’s 39 combined team assists.

Even with the high numbers on paper, the match was not as clean of a performance as the Viks usually bring to the court.

 Seemann said the game looked sloppy, and being out of system was an underlying issue throughout the match.

“We weren’t really able to rely on the kind of offense we would typically run, and we found ourselves out of system a lot and we put a lot of pressure on our outside hitters,” he said. “I thought Megan and Whitney responded really well.”

Phillips led all players in kills with 21 and had 18 digs, followed by Ellis with 12 kills and 15 digs. Hamilton had 10 kills and a team high .409 hitting percentage. The fourth senior, middle blocker Lana Zielke, chipped in nine kills and a .368 hitting percentage.

Alongside Phillips and Ellis, three other Viking players pulled double-digit digs. Villalpando led all players with 29 digs. This was the first time since the Viks matched up against Sac State on Nov. 17, 2008 that PSU has had five players with double-digit digs. Portland State had 100 digs to Sac State’s 79.

The regular season victory is just the beginning. The Viks will host the Big Sky Tournament this Friday and Saturday at the Stott Center.

Phillips said that the team is excited to be on home turf.

“We are looking forward to being at home,” she said. “Our fans are awesome; they were awesome tonight.”

Portland State’s Big Sky regular title gives them the top seed as they enter the conference postseason. They will play their first match against No. 4 Montana at 7:30 p.m. Friday. ?