The Vikings were seeking to right the ship going into the Sept. 27 match against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. At the tail end of a 13-game losing streak—the longest streak in Portland State’s volleyball program since 2001—the Vikings were hoping to turn things around in their first Big Sky Conference home match in the 2018–19 season.
Unfortunately, the Vikings went into the match riddled with injuries—most notably, sophomore outside hitter (OH) Parker Webb and senior OH Sarah Brennan—and facing a team with a formidably strong out-of-conference record during the current season, even taking home a win over a nationally ranked team when they beat Florida State on Sept. 7.
The second set appeared promising, as PSU managed to stay toe-to-toe with NAU, led by confident performances by freshman OH Peyton McBride, junior middle blocker (MB) Whitney Turner and junior OH Toni McDougald. Bringing their hitting percentage up to .267, they showed a stronger energy and a more focused flow, resulting in some impressive finishes. Although they managed to stay neck and neck for the first half of the second set, NAU finished with a 25-20 win. The third set played an unfortunate reprise of the first, however, and the Lumberjacks again managed to bully the Vikings, finishing both the set and the match with a 25-20 win.
All in all, the Vikings found themselves facing an opponent that proved to be bigger, stronger and far more tuned in as a team. Led by junior MB Abby Akin, senior OH Kaylie Jorgensen and freshman OH Ryann Davis, the Lumberjacks bombarded the Vikings with an onslaught of 45 kills on a 36 hitting percentage, sweeping the Vikings and walking away with their second consecutive Big Sky Conference win, moving into the third position in the conference behind Montana State (2nd) and Idaho State (1st).
The first set introduced a tone that would come to define the entire match: The Lumberjacks were swinging right out of the gate, serving up a slew of kills the Vikings couldn’t return. The Lumberjacks stole the first set with a barrage of 15 kills, hitting .371 against PSU’s paltry .026, resulting in a 25-13 loss.
After the game, Head Coach Michael Seeman said the Vikings simply “didn’t do a very good job of executing offensively.” He focused on his team’s failure to “do a good job connecting with [the] setters and hitters, both in terms of timing and spacing.”
Despite the opening home loss, however, Coach Seeman detailed what needed to be done heading into the next home match against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Saturday, Sept. 29: “I think we need to make sure that we’re taking advantage of the situations where we can score.” According to Seeman, the inability to do that was one of the primary causes of Thursday’s loss to the Lumberjacks. “We put ourselves into position to score, but because of ill-timed or bad setting, we didn’t do that, so we never were able to get ahead or even things up,” he said.
After hosting the Southern Utah Thunderbirds at the Viking Pavilion on Sept. 29, the Vikings will hit the road to face the Eastern Washington University Eagles in Cheney, Wash. on Oct. 4, followed by the University of Idaho Vandals in Moscow, Idaho. Their next home match is set to take place on Oct. 11 against the Weber State Bobcats.