CORVALLIS, Ore. — The Portland State volleyball team married its best offensive match of the season with its best defensive match Saturday afternoon. No matter what the sport, you put those two things together then chances are you’re going to win. Sure enough, the perfect marriage led to a 3-0 sweep (25-16, 26-24, 25-15) for the Vikings over North Texas at the Asics Invitational at Gill Coliseum.
The Vikings (3-5) out-hit the Mean Green .274-to.124, with the Vikings’ .274 hitting percentage marking a new season high. The .124 mark for the Mean Green (5-6) was just two-thousandths off the season low for a Viking opponent, thanks to a seasonal-best performance at the net. The Vikings finished with 10 blocks Saturday, with five different players recording at least three blocks individually.
“We had a lot of success blocking early in the match, which influenced their attackers and offensive decision-making,” Portland State head coach Michael Seemann said afterwards. “Our first contact was reliable today, which allowed good distribution offensively. We produced a lot of good swings in transition thanks to disciplined defense.”
Key to the Vikings’ season-high .274 hitting percentage was how the Vikings distributed the ball. Seemann liked the way his team distributed the ball yesterday despite their loss to Utah State. Saturday, the Vikings distributed it even better as three different players finished with at least eight kills between Sophia Meyers (11), Parker Webb (9) and Zoe McBride (8). Jasmine Powell also had six kills on .500 hitting in the match.
It was the defense that set the tone early, however. Portland State actually didn’t have a kill through their first four points of the match as they instead forced a series of attack errors from the Mean Green. The Vikings took a 13-6 lead early in the first set behind 9-1 run that included four North Texas attack errors.
North Texas was hitting negative-.200 at that point of the match, and the Vikings wouldn’t let them off the mat for the rest of the set. The Mean Green got back within three at 13-10, but the Vikings responded with a 5-1 run that included a kill and a block each for Webb and Ashlyn Blotzeras well as back-to-back kills later in the run from Meyers.
The Vikings finished the first set with four blocks, the same number they had during their entire match against Utah State on Friday. The Vikings’ four blocks meant they held North Texas to negative-.029 hitting in the set, while finishing with 12 kills on .290 hitting themselves.
The Vikings added another four blocks early in the second set, but the Mean Green found their way back into the set from there. The Vikings’ fourth block of the second set gave them a 12-9 lead, but North Texas responded with a 4-1 run to tie it up at 13-all. The teams traded the next 14 points before a 3-0 North Texas run gave them a 22-20 lead late.
The late part of the second set proved to be the one moment of suspense for the Vikings Saturday, as North Texas earned two set points at 24-22. Meyers erased the first set point with a kill, while a bad set from the Mean Green on the next point made it 24-all. The defense took it from there for the Vikings, as Portland State forced back-to-back attack errors from the Mean Green to close out a 26-24 set victory and take a 2-0 lead in the match.
The momentum swing at the end of the second set bled into the third as the Vikings staked out an early 6-0 lead behind four early kills, two of which came from Webb. Back-to-back aces from Webb gave the Vikings an 11-3 lead later in the set, and the Vikings would stretch it to a 10-point lead at 13-3 after another two attack errors from North Texas. The Mean Green didn’t get closer than seven points the rest of the way before a final kill from Webb – her fifth of the third set – ended the match.
Setters Madison Friebel and Ella Hartford led the Vikings’ strong distribution. Friebel finished with 17 assists and seven digs, while Hartford chipped in 12 assists and five digs. Libero Ellie Snook was also part of the distribution Saturday, as she nearly had a double-double with nine assists to go with her team-high 10 digs.
Ashleigh Barto led the Vikings at the net with five blocks individually, though Blotzer was right behind her with four blocks herself. Powell, Meyers and Webb all had three blocks each while McBride finished with two.
The Vikings now head back to Portland for a home match against Cal Poly Sunday at 1 p.m. Cal Poly heads into the match 0-6 on the season, but that record is misleading as the Mustangs have played three AVCA Top 25 teams already this season, including two at the Husky Invite in Seattle earlier this week. The Mustangs took both No. 24 Pepperdine and No. 13 Washington to five sets before falling.
The Vikings will have another challenge on their hands in the Mustangs, then, but marry the offense and defense like they did Saturday, and the Vikings will be in good position to meet that challenge.
Match Notes: This was the first-ever meeting between Portland State and North Texas in volleyball…Saturday’s win was the first sweep of the season for the Vikings…North Texas did not have a single ace in Saturday’s match, meaning the Vikings were perfect in serve receive…Meyers had three aces to lead the Vikings’ efforts from the service line, while Webb had two and McBride had one.