Volleyball on Fire

    The Portland State volleyball team continued their onslaught of Big Sky foes in the comfort of the Stott Center this past week, sweeping newly instated conference opponent Northern Colorado on Thursday and battling to an eventual victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday.

    The Viks’ match-up with Northern Colorado had all the makings of an epic battle, with both teams coming in perfect in Big Sky play. However, this match failed to live up to its promising billing when the Viks and their dominating offensive attack proved to be too much for the Big Sky newcomers.

    ”When Northern Colorado is in their system they’re very quick, and we served well enough and their passing was shaky enough that they didn’t get into a real good offensive rhythm,” head coach Jeff Mozzochi said.

    While the Bears had trouble getting their offense running on all cylinders, only hitting .176 for the game, the Vikings’ offensive attack ran seamlessly all night long. Portland State stuck to the basics and began their offensive attack behind the service line. All night long, the Viks showed their superiority from behind the stripe, easily eclipsing the Bears’ lone ace with five of their own. Their serving excellence not only led to a more potent offensive attack, but also enhanced their defense by limiting the Bears’ offensive ability and catching them unprepared on numerous occasions.

    ”The one thing that I think we did really well tonight was serve pretty tough,” Mozzochi said. “That got Northern Colorado out of their offensive system, not allowing them to run a lot of their quicker, faster stuff as much as they would have liked to.” 

    Another significant part of the Viks’ offensive success stemmed from their outstanding hitting percentage. For the match, they accumulated a .320 hitting percentage, including a remarkable .457 hitting percentage in the third game. Senior outside hitter Jessica Brodie, fresh off winning the Big Sky Player of the Week award, led the attack with a match-high 20 kills and .500 hitting percentage. Jessica Frederick, the second member of the Vikings’ outstanding senior outside hitter duo, also had an impressive performance in the three-game sweep with 13 kills and a .348 hitting percentage. 

    Unlike the first conference match-up of the week, the Vikings’ match against Northern Arizona had blowout written all over it. Coming into the game the Viks had a 8-4 (3-0) record and the Lumberjacks a 5-7 (1-2) record, but just like the match against Northern Colorado the records didn’t tell the story of the teams on the floor.

    Every game of this match was a hard-fought struggle between two evenly matched teams. The Viks started strong, winning a tight first game 30-25 in impressive fashion. But game two marked the beginning of the Vikings’ struggles, as they had trouble finding their offensive rhythm and end up losing by exactly the same margin that they won the first game by. Much of the Lumberjacks’ success in game two can be attributed to junior outside hitters Kim Babcock and Kailee Savage, who combined for 10 of the team’s 12 kills during their game-two victory.

    ”In game two they got on a roll. They did a nice job of making some adjustments, we had different match-ups and they had one server that was hot right at the beginning, and I think that caused us some problems,” Mozzochi said.

    As the teams returned from intermission and the third game began, a noticeably more inspired, confident Viking team took the floor. Trailing late and on the verge of losing the go-ahead game, the Viks dug deep and rediscovered their game-one swagger, rebounding from the game-two loss to the tune of a 31-29 victory. The Viks’ inspired play leaked over to the fourth game, where they escaped with a well-played four-point win.

    ”This was definitely a team win, and I thought that everyone was doing really well tonight,” Brodie said after accumulating 27 kills on the night. “Everyone played with their heart in the game and we were playing all out the entire night.”

    Freshman setter Dominique Fradella shared Brodie’s sentiment about the team’s willingness to win the close match down the stretch.

    ”After the second game we had a talk and knew that we were going to put it all together and come out stronger,” Fradella said. “There was a lot of intensity out there and everyone was going all out tonight.”

    One of many bright spots during this match and throughout the season has been the play of Fradella. Currently, she leads the Big Sky with 12.77 assists per game and against the Lumberjacks she continued her stellar play by dishing out 67 assists, good enough for fifth place in Viking history.

    Lost in the excitement of prevailing in a heated conference match was freshman multi-position player Jennifer Oney’s record-breaking performance. Recently, Oney has received extended playing time due to an ankle injury that has slowed senior middle blocker Michelle Robertson. She made the most of her new role on Saturday, finishing the match with a hitting percentage of .611 with 12 kills on 18 attempts, which tied Kristi Scott for the third-highest hitting percentage by a Viking in a four-game match.

    After the pivotal two wins, Portland State’s overall record improved to 9-4 and a perfect 4-0 in conference play, placing them in sole possession of first place in the Big Sky. With conference play in full swing, the Viks will be challenged in their next two matches as they travel outside the Stott Center to tangle with Idaho State next Thursday and perennial power Sacramento State on Saturday.