The Portland State women’s volleyball team took on first-year Big Sky opponent Southern Utah to add another win to the Vikings’ undefeated conference standings. The Vikings, now 10-7 and 6-0, came out slow against the Thunderbirds in set one, but went on to a four set match victory. While it took some time to learn how the new opponent played, Viking serving and blocking got the Thunderbirds off-balance and ultimately led to a win at home.
HIGH STATS: Megan Ellis got eight kills and 17 digs against Southern Utah. The Vikings are on a six–game winning streak.
After dropping set one 25-18, the Vikings made the necessary adjustments and dominated the court, leaving the Thunderbirds with just a 0.062 hitting percentage overall.
In set two, the Thunderbirds kept the score close until a kill by sophomore middle blocker Leigh-Ann Haataja at 16-14 cleared a path for a 10-1 run by the Vikings, sealing the set 25-15. From there, the momentum was just beginning: After halftime the Vikings went on to dominate sets three and four 25-12 and 25-14, respectively.
“We kind of came out flat,” junior setter Garyn Schlatter said.
But the Vikings pulled together as a team, and in sets three and four they held the Thunderbirds to a negative hitting percentage—the first time this season the Vikings held an opponent to two negative percentages in a match.
Head coach Michael Seemann said that once the team got in the winning mentality they were able to make plays.
“I think our serving came through, but I also saw that our shot selection improved. We did a better job of timing the block,” Seemann said. “I thought that we were ill-timed in the first two sets, especially, but then eventually we got better at timing and rhythm.”
In shot selection, junior Jaklyn Wheeler dominated. The outside hitter slammed a match-high 17 kills and seven digs. She was named Big Sky volleyball player of the week for her performance.
Her outside hitter counterpart, senior Megan Ellis, also played a big offensive role with eight kills and a match-high 17 digs.
“They’re coming through every night for us,” Seemann said of the duo. “Obviously what you expect from our upperclassmen.”
On the front lines, sophomore middle blocker Katie O’Brien had one solo block along with four block assists, and behind the line sophomore libero Kasi Clark came up big again with three service aces. With an opponent that hit a variety of unique plays, serving and blocking were key to disrupting Southern Utah’s play.
“Our servers served really well,” Schlatter said. “They made it a lot easier on our blockers. It was more predictable.”
As the Vikings prepare for another pair of games at home this weekend, teamwork will be a key focus. “Without all 14 people on our team, we don’t really have a chance,” Schlatter said.
The Vikings host Northern Colorado tonight at 7 p.m., and then Big Sky newcomer North Dakota on Saturday at 1 p.m. Both matches are at the Stott Center.