Volleyball hosts the Montanas

The Portland State women’s volleyball team is back at home this weekend to host Montana and Montana State on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

The Portland State women’s volleyball team is back at home this weekend to host Montana and Montana State on Friday and Saturday, respectively. After last week’s disappointing loss, the Viks are sure to be looking for redemption during their return to the Park Blocks.

Portland State (12-8, 7-2 Big Sky) fell to the Idaho State Bengals last Friday, 3-1, in Pocatello. The loss not only ended the 10-match winning streak the Viks held over the Bengals, but it also bumped PSU out of the top position in the conference standings.

After following up the loss to the Bengals with a three-set sweep of the Weber State Wildcats on Saturday, the Vikings now sit one game behind conference-leading Northern Colorado.

Friday’s loss to Idaho State marked the first time in 12 matches that the Vikings were outhit by their opponents. The Bengals’ .357 hitting mark eclipsed the Vikings’ .226 hitting, and marked the first time since the 2005 season that a PSU opponent has hit .350 or higher. Head coach Michael Seemann said this resulted from the team lacking the strong defense they usually bring to the court.

“This week we will primarily be working on closing up our blocks and having a little better presence over the net,” he said.

Over the weekend, Portland State outside hitter Whitney Phillips led the team in offense, something the senior has done much of since her arrival at the Park Blocks last year. The team co-captain has posted 21 kills in the past three matches and led the floor in each one. Phillips has led the team in kills in all but three matches this season, and in her 50 career matches at PSU she has reached double-digits in all but two.

This weekend, the Viks are likely happy to be home in the friendly confines of the Stott Center, where they have chalked up an impressive 42-2 record over the last five seasons.

“We’re in the comfort of our own home, which makes a huge difference,” Seemann said. “But we don’t want to rely on the crowd. You have to make defensive plays that can have impact within the set.”

A look at the Montana Lady Griz

Third-ranked Montana played a commanding match over Montana State last Friday, blanking the in-state rivals in a three-set sweep before a sell-out crowd in Bozeman. The match was the second time the Grizzlies have shut out the Montana State Bobcats.

Junior middle blocker Brittany Quick led the Griz with 13 kills and just one error. Alongside Quick was senior middle blocker Jaimie Thibeault, who recorded 8 kills.

On defense, freshman setter Kortney James headed it for Montana, recording her ninth double-double of the season with 10 digs and 35 assists. The Bobcats outhit the Grizzlies in the first set, but the second and third frame saw Montana earn the better offensive numbers.

Similar to the match with Montana State, the pair of Quick and Thibeault led the team against Sac State earlier this month. Quick posted 10 kills while Thibeault had 11, and together they accounted for over half of Montana’s 40 kills.

When they visit the Park Blocks on Friday, the Lady Griz will be on the road for the fourth time in just five weeks this weekend.

A look at the Montana State Bobcats

The Bobcats (10-12, 3-6 Big Sky) have had a bumpy first half of conference play.  Earlier this month, Montana State lost three straight on the road. Following that cold streak, they took Sac State to five sets match to beat the fifth-ranked Hornets before falling to Montana.

The Bobcats do have a team that knows how to share the spotlight. Against Montana, the Bobcats had four players recording double-digit digs. Sophomore setter Jennifer Lunquist posted a double-double with 29 assists and 11 digs, senior libero Meghan Albiston grabbed 13 digs, while junior outside hitter Rachelle Allen recorded 10 digs.

In the meeting with the Grizzlies, the Bobcats held the final score of each set to within six points. Allen earned a kill in the final set to put Montana State within just one at 24-23, but a Bobcats hitting error gave Montana the final-set victory.

Montana State will take on Eastern Washington on Friday before heading to the Park Blocks to face the Vikings.

Past matchups

Portland State beat both opponents, 3-1, in the first round of Big Sky play. Against the Griz, Phillips and freshman setter Garyn Schlatter posted double-doubles. Phillips racked up 22 kills and 14 digs, and Schlatter tallied 46 assists and 13 digs. The Viks have beaten the Lady Griz in the past 12 matches.

The Viks have won 11 matches against Montana State. In the win this season, Phillips and Schlatter again saw twin double-doubles. Phillips had 28 kills and 10 digs, while Schlatter had 41 assists and a career-high 16 digs.

How to follow

Both matches will be held at the Stott Center. Portland State hosts Montana on Friday night at 7 p.m., and then Montana State at 8 p.m. Saturday. Both games will be streamed live on Big Sky TV and live stats will be available. Links to both can be found at www.goviks.com. ?