The Portland State women’s volleyball team will host the Montana State University Bobcats and the University of Montana Lady Griz this weekend.
In for the kill: Middle blocker Katie O’Brien attacks the net during a game. PSU prepares for a showdown against both Big Sky Montana teams this weekend.
The Vikings are currently in first place in the Big Sky with a 15-8 record overall and 11-1 conference play. With the conference two weeks into the second round of play, the goal for championship eligibility is clear. The Bobcats and Lady Griz each hover around the middle of the standings, and will be vying for one of the top six spots.
The Vikings are coming off a sweep this past weekend against Eastern Washington University and California State University, Sacramento. Serving has been the key to the Vikings’ success, but while the team keeps their focus behind the line, the front row defense has also stepped up big, out-blocking their previous two opponents.
Since everyone in the Big Sky Conference has played each other at least once this season, head coach Michael Seemann said the team will be focusing less on scouting their opponents and more on trying to clean up their system.
“I think we build our own momentum,” Seemann said. “I think we got to take what we’re doing out on the floor—all the good things—and we have to apply them to practice…That is our goal every day.”
The Vikings key players coming into this weekend are senior outside hitter Megan Ellis, sophomore middle blocker Leigh-Ann Haataja, junior setter Garyn Schlatter and junior outside hitters Jaklyn Wheeler and Aubrey Mitchell. Ellis, Haataja, Wheeler and Mitchell all contributed double-digit kills against Sacramento State last weekend, complementing Schlatter’s match-high 52 assists.
Montana State comes into Portland with record of 12-8 overall and 6-6 in the conference, putting them in a tie for fifth place in the standings. The Bobcats rebounded from a shutout loss on last Friday to earn a hard-fought win against the University of Northern Colorado the following day.
They are led by senior middle blocker Taylar Barney, junior outside hitter Sarah Horton and freshman outside hitter Eli Svisco.
The Thursday game will also feature a matchup of siblings, as Garyn Schlatter’s sister Kasey Schlatter is a sophomore outside hitter for the Montana State squad.
After the sisters face off, PSU hosts Montana on Saturday evening. The Lady Griz are in eighth place in the standings with a 6-15 record overall and 4-8 in the conference. The Griz come into the match off a split weekend. They suffered one of the hardest losses of the season when they were swept on their home court by the University of North Dakota, but responded to the loss with a four-set victory over Northern Colorado on Saturday.
The team is led by junior outside hitter Kayla Reno, junior middle blocker Brooke Bray, sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Schile and freshman outside hitter Gabby Crowell.
Neither of the Vikings’ opponents this weekend will be lacking motivation, but the Viking focus is also clear. “We need to carry the momentum of the last games into next weekend, and come back and play hard, play as hard as we did and pull out another two wins,” Haataja said.