Volleyball splits the difference

Portland State finished a tough two-game road trip that featured both ups and downs on Saturday night.

Portland State finished a tough two-game road trip that featured both ups and downs on Saturday night. After dropping Thursday’s match to Northern Colorado, the Vikings earned a big win on the road against Northern Arizona on Saturday to remain in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Sky.

Beginning their road trip in Northern Colorado, the Vikings failed to get their offense going and spent most of Thursday night trailing the Bears. Failing to hit above .200 for the first time since playing University of Oregon in early September, Portland State was ineffective for much of the night and nearly swept by the Bears.

“I think they played excellent defense,” said junior Whitney Phillips. “They came out and did what they needed to do.”

Besides hitting a paltry .154, the Vikings had an unusually high number of errors, with 33 compared to Northern Colorado’s 21, not counting service errors. However, there were a few bright spots with middle blocker Erica Jepsen earning a season high of 12 kills, and setter Nique Fradella and outside hitter Phillips both playing well.

“They were a good blocking team,” said senior Fradella. “They were really good at the net.”

After losing the first two sets 25-23 and 25-19, it was clear the Bears were not going to let Portland State cruise through town with an easy win. The Vikings took the third set 21-25, but failed to build on their momentum and dropped the fourth on an unforced error to close out the set, 25-21.

After dropping their game against Northern Colorado, and with it their tie for first place, the Vikings headed to Northern Arizona to play a team coming off a victory against Eastern Washington the same night Portland State lost.

Fielding multiple freshmen on any given night, the Lumberjacks proved how dangerous they could be against a good Eastern Washington team.

“We knew they were a young team, and they had a lot of energy,” Fradella said. “They’re a really scrappy team.”

Showing they are not a team to be easily intimidated, the Vikings showed veteran-like poise and disposed of Northern Arizona in straight sets. After showing real grit in the process of taking the first set 25-22, Portland State hit an incredible .696 in the second set to lead to a 25-14 victory.

The Vikings finished off the Lumberjacks in the third set, 25-20, putting the final touches on a match that was a nice contrast to the Northern Colorado game.

Leading the offense in her usual efficient manner, Fradella raked in 46 assists against the Lumberjacks to bring her two-game total to 94. Meanwhile, Phillips smashed 41 kills on .252 hitting on the road trip.

Despite the loss to Northern Colorado and splitting the trip 1-1, the Vikings remain tied with Eastern Washington and Northern Colorado atop the Big Sky Standings.

“We talked about not getting let down,” Phillips said. “I think we were well prepared.”

Heading into the remainder of the season, the Vikings have a favorable schedule with a majority of their road games behind them.

As they prepare to face Idaho State and Weber State both at home this weekend, Portland State should have the chance to build some momentum before their next road trip through Montana later in the month.