If head coach Michael Seemann wanted a restful autumnal weekend, he wouldn’t be coaching volleyball. Sure enough, Seemann and the Portland State volleyball team are in for another gauntlet this weekend, as they play two neutral-site matches at the Asics Invitational in Corvallis, Ore., before returning to Viking Pavilion for a home match against Cal Poly Sunday.
Through two weekends of play this season, the Vikings have faced four teams that won at least 20 matches last season, and the other two teams were Oregon State out of the Pac-12 Conference and Long Beach State, a program that has won five national titles in its history. This weekend will see the Vikings add another 20-win team to their resume, as Utah State – which is receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 – will open the weekend for the Vikings at the Asics Invitational.
At the very least, the Vikings are back in Oregon for the rest of the non-conference schedule. They made their longest trip of the preseason last week, heading down to El Paso, Texas, for the Borderland Invitational, hosted by UTEP. The trip gave the Vikings a taste of what the road will be like during conference play, as well as the quality of some of the teams they’ll play. All four teams at the Borderland Invitational, including the Vikings, won at least 20 matches last season, while three of the four went to national postseason tournaments.
The Vikings beat one of the other postseason teams in UTEP, which avenged a loss to the Miners last season when the teams played each other at the Vikings’ home tournament, the PDX Classic. The Miners nearly came back from an 0-2 deficit against the Vikings, but a standout performance from the Vikings’ offense in the fifth set turned UTEP away. The Vikings hit .348 in the fifth set after being held to a negative percentage in the fourth. What’s more, the Vikings recorded kills on 13 of their 15 points in the set, as Makayla Lewis, Sophia Meyers and Parker Webb all recorded at least three kills in the frame.
Lewis had four of her match-high 20 kills in the fifth set, giving her a second match with 20+ kills this season. Lewis added a career-high five blocks to her 20 kills, as the Vikings set a season high with 11 blocks as a team against the Miners.
Meyers and Webb had three kills each in the fifth set behind Lewis. For Meyers, the fifth set represented the cherry on top of her best match yet as a Viking. The sophomore transfer from Montana recorded the first 15-15 match of her career, as she finished with 18 kills and 17 digs to go with three aces and two blocks. Her 22.0 combined points marked a new career high, while her 18 kills tied another career high.
Libero Ellie Snook also had her best match of the season to date against the Miners. She set season highs for digs (25), assists (6) and aces (3), while helping the Viking defense hold UTEP to just .138 hitting in the match.
The Vikings will face similar challenges this weekend, especially in their weekend opener against the Aggies this Friday in Corvallis. The Aggies sport the best win of any team the Vikings have played this season, having beaten then-No. 12 UCLA in four sets at their home tournament on the opening day of the season. It was the Aggies’ first win over a ranked opponent since Nov. 24, 2010.
The early-season success shouldn’t come as a surprise for the Aggies, as they returned three starters plus their libero from a 2021 team that went 22-9 overall and tied for the Mountain West regular-season title with a 14-4 record in league play.
Kylee Stokes has led the Aggies with 2.53 kills per set so far this season, after she was a Mountain West all-tournament selection last season. Stokes had 29 kills through the Aggies’ first two matches of the season, including 14 in the Aggies’ upset win over UCLA.
North Texas, the Vikings’ opponent Saturday in Corvallis, are a fresh-faced squad this year. The Mean Green brought in a new coach in Kristee Porter from McNeese State, and Porter went out and signed a number of impact transfers. One of those transfers, Treyaunna Rush, leads North Texas offensively with 3.85 kills per set. Rush has topped 20+ kills in two different matches so far, including a career night against Providence in which she had 26 kills on .350 hitting to go with 12 digs and five blocks.
Besides Rush, Aryn Johnson, who followed Porter over from McNeese State, averages 2.85 kills per set and has topped 10+ kills in the last five matches in a row. Sh’Diamond Holly – a transfer from the University of New Orleans – leads the team and Conference USA with 1.27 blocks per set.
Cal Poly, Sunday’s opponent who the Vikings will host at Viking Pavilion at 1 p.m., presents a challenge of its own. The Mustangs come in with two preseason all-conference outside hitters in Tommi Stockham and Maia Dvoracek, who lead the Mustangs with 2.91 and 2.73 kills per set, respectively. Stockham made the All-Big West first team last season after ranking fourth in the conference with 3.54 kills per set. Dvoracek, meanwhile, is making her return for the Mustangs after not playing since 2019 due to the pandemic and then a knee injury that forced her to sit out the entire 2021 season.
Middle blocker Meredith Phillips has led a standout group at the net for the Mustangs after she was an all-conference honorable mention last season. The Mustangs rank fourth nationally with 3.18 blocks per set as a team, while Phillips ranks 15th in the NCAA individually with 1.55 blocks per set.
So, Seemann and the Vikings’ quiet weekend will have to wait until January, most likely. But that’s just fine. Fall is for volleyball, after all.
MATCH #1: PORTLAND STATE (2-4) vs. (RV) UTAH STATE (3-2)
DETAILS: Friday, Sept. 9, 1 p.m. PT, Corvallis, Ore. (Gill Coliseum)
SCOUTING UTAH STATE: The Utah State Aggies have one of the best wins on their resume of any team the Vikings have played so far this season. The Aggies beat then-No. 12 UCLA at their home tournament, the Utah State Invitational, on the opening day of the season. The win marked the Aggies’ first victory over a ranked opponent since Nov. 24, 2010, and the team has been receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25 the past two weeks as a result. The Aggies followed with two more matches against ranked opponents in then-No. 7 BYU and then-No. 10 Pittsburgh at the BYU Invitational, but lost in three sets in both matches. The early-season success shouldn’t come as a surprise for the Aggies, as they returned three starters plus their libero from a 2021 team that went 22-9 overall and tied for the Mountain West regular-season title with a 14-4 record in league play. Coaches within the Mountain West picked the Aggies to finish second in the conference this season, while Tatum Stall was named to the preseason all-MW team. Stall earned all-MW honors at the end of last season, as well, when she led the team with 2.90 kills per set. Kylee Stokes has led the Aggies with 2.53 kills per set so far this season, after she was a Mountain West all-tournament selection last season. Stokes had 29 kills through the Aggies’ first two matches of the season, including 14 in the Aggies’ upset win over UCLA. Besides Stokes, Kaylie Ray ranks second on the team with 2.30 kills per set while Stall (2.15), Emilee Turner (2.12) and Shelby Capllonch (2.06) also average more than two kills per set. Defensively, Jordi Holloway leads the Aggies with 3.41 digs per set. Bella Wooden leads the team with 1.40 blocks per set, though she’s played in only five sets this season. Kennedi Boyd has played in all 17 sets so far and averages 1.12 blocks per set.
ALL-TIME SERIES: The Aggies lead the all-time series between them and the Vikings, 5-3. The teams haven’t played since 1999, however, and that was their first meeting since 1986 at the time. The Vikings’ last win was on Sept. 21, 1986, when they swept the Aggies, 3-0.
MATCH #2: PORTLAND STATE (2-4) vs. NORTH TEXAS (3-4)
DETAILS: Saturday, Sept. 10, 2:30 p.m. PT, Corvallis, Ore. (Gill Coliseum)
SCOUTING NORTH TEXAS: The North Texas Mean Green have wins over Jacksonville University (3-0), Texas A&M-Commerce (3-0) and UT Arlington (3-0) this season, while losing to UNLV (3-0), UTRGV (3-2), Stephen F. Austin (3-1) and Providence (3-2). The Mean Green went into the year with just two starters returning from their 2021 team that went 15-12 overall and finished third in the Conference USA west division with a 7-5 league record. UTEP, which the Vikings beat in five sets this past weekend, was also in the Conference USA west division last year, and beat North Texas in three sets both times they played last season. Head coach Kristee Porter assumed leadership of the program after last season, after spending the previous two years as the head coach at McNeese State. The Mean Green lost All-Conference USA first- and second-team selections Rhett Robinson and Sarah Haeussler off last year’s team, though they returned Conference USA all-freshman team selection Andrea Owens. Owens earned the honor after averaging 2.50 kills per set despite missing time due to injury. Treyaunna Rush, a new transfer from Texas A&M, leads North Texas offensively so far this season, as she averages 3.85 kills per set. Rush has topped 20+ kills in two different matches so far, including a career night against Providence in which she had 26 kills on .350 hitting to go with 12 digs and five blocks. Besides Rush, Aryn Johnson, who followed Porter over from McNeese State, averages 2.85 kills per set and has topped 10+ kills in the last five matches in a row. Defensively, Aleeyah Galdeira leads Conference USA with 5.42 digs per set, while Sh’Diamond Holly – another transfer, this time from the University of New Orleans – leads the team with 1.27 blocks per set.
ALL-TIME SERIES: This will be the first meeting between the Vikings and the Mean Green in volleyball.
MATCH #3: PORTLAND STATE (2-4) vs. CAL POLY (0-3)
LIVE STATS | LIVE VIDEO
DETAILS: Sunday, Sept. 11, 1 p.m. PT, Portland, Ore. (Viking Pavilion)
SCOUTING CAL POLY: The Cal Poly Mustangs had a rare open weekend last week after playing three matches in Utah the week before. The Mustangs lost all three of their matches in Utah, falling in three sets to then-No. 12 UCLA on Aug. 27, and in four sets to Utah State (Aug. 26) and Utah Valley (Aug. 29). The Mustangs will return to competition with matches this Thursday, when they face Northwestern and No. 24 Pepperdine at the Husky Invitational in Seattle. The Mustangs will then play No. 13 Washington Friday before heading down to Portland for their match against the Vikings on Sunday. The Mustangs returned their top hitter from last season in Tommi Stockham, who was named to the All-Big West first team after ranking fourth in the conference with 3.54 kills per set. Meredith Phillips also returned after earning all-conference honorable mention last season, when she ranked fifth in the Big West with 1.05 blocks per set. Phillips also ranked eighth in the conference with a .310 hitting percentage while averaging 2.40 kills per set. Stockham and senior right-side hitter Maia Dvoracek were each named to the eight-member Big West preseason all-conference team, while the Mustangs were picked to finish third as a team this season. Dvoracek is playing again for the first time since 2019 due to the pandemic and then a knee injury that forced her to sit out the entire 2021 season. Through three matches this season, Stockham has led the Mustangs with 2.91 kills per set, while Dvoracek ranks right behind her with 2.73. Phillips has also led a standout group of players at the net for the Mustangs, as they rank fourth in the nation with 3.18 blocks per set. Phillips ranks 15th in the nation individually with 1.55 blocks per set, while her teammates Amy Hiatt and Kate Slack are in the top 150 nationally, as well, with 1.12 and 1.09 blocks per set, respectively.
ALL-TIME SERIES: Cal Poly leads the all-time series between them and the Vikings, 4-1. The Vikings won the last meeting between the two teams, which was way back on Sept. 18, 2004. The teams have never played on either team’s home floor, making Sunday’s match a first in that regard.
- Portland State won its first match over a Pac-12 opponent since 2017 while picking up its first win over Oregon State since 1990 with a 3-1 win over the Beavers on Aug. 27 at the Hotel Vance Rose City Showdown. It’s only the sixth win for the Vikings out of 50 matches against Pac-12 opponents during the program’s Division I era.
- Four of the Vikings’ six matches so far have been against teams that won at least 20 matches last season, while the other two matches were against Oregon State, a Pac-12 program, and Long Beach State, a program that has won five national titles in its history. The Vikings will play another 20-win team this season in the Aggies, who went 22-9 last season.
- The Vikings avenged a loss last season to UTEP with their five-set win over the Miners this past Friday. The Miners beat the Vikings at the PDX Classic last season, so the Vikings returned the favor by beating the Miners at their home tournament, the Borderland Invitational.
- Makayla Lewis ranks seventh in the Big Sky with 3.48 kills per set during the early season. She’s finished with 20+ kills in two of the Vikings’ six matches, including the Vikings’ five-set road win over UTEP this past Friday. Lewis also has two double-doubles this season, tied with newcomer Sophia Meyers for the most on the team.
- Sophia Meyers posted the first 15-15 match of her career in the Vikings’ five-set win over UTEP. Meyers finished with 18 kills and 17 digs while also adding three aces and two blocks. Her 22.0 combined points set a new career high, while her 18 kills tied her career high.
- Parker Webb and Ellie Snook both rank in the top 10 of the Big Sky for aces per set. Webb stands eighth with 0.43 aces per set, while Snook is right behind her in a tie for ninth with 0.39. Webb had six aces on the opening weekend of the season, including four in the Vikings’ win over Oregon State on Aug. 27. Snook had seven aces this past weekend, including three each against UTEP and New Mexico. Historically, the pair both rank among the top 10 players in Division I program history, with Webb third all-time with 122 career aces, and Snook seventh with 103.
- The Vikings have held their opponent to under .200 hitting in both of their wins this season, while the Vikings also held Long Beach State to .175 hitting in their four-set loss to the Beach.
- Teniyah Leuluai played as the second setter in the Vikings’ 6-2 formation opposite Madison Friebel this past weekend. Leuluai played in only one set the previous weekend, when Ella Hartford played opposite Friebel. The Vikings have also played in a 5-1 with Friebel as the lone setter at times this season.
- If Parker Webb plays in all three matches this weekend, she will tie Garyn Schlatter (2010-13), a PSU Hall of Famer, for the most matches played during the program’s Division I era. Webb may also pass Richell Wilson (2000-03) for the second-most kills during the program’s Division I era, if she can record 42 this weekend.
- Ellie Snook needs 54 digs this weekend to pass Eavi Shovlin (1994-97) for second all time across all eras of the program. She needs 163 more digs to break the career record that Kasimira Clark (2011-14) set at 1,851.
- The Vikings hosted both Oregon and Oregon State on the opening weekend of the season, the first time they’ve hosted both in-state Pac-12 programs in a season since 2010. With a match against the University of Portland later during the non-conference schedule, the Vikings will play all three of the other in-state NCAA Division I programs for the first time since 2005.
- The Vikings added six newcomers this season, including three Division I transfers in Ashlyn Blotzer (Eastern Washington), Madison Friebel (Butler) and Sophia Meyers (Montana). Blotzer comes to the Vikings after earning All-Big Sky second-team honors with the Eagles following each of the past two seasons. Friebel, meanwhile, was a two-year starting setter at Butler, while Meyers led the Grizzlies in kills during her lone season there during the COVID-altered 2021 winter season. The Vikings added a fourth transfer in Ella Hartford from William Jessup, an NAIA school. Freshmen Kendra Duffey and Danica Wulf, club teammates for Tstreet Volleyball Club, joined the Vikings following their prep careers.
- The Vikings are coming off their first 20-win season since 2017, as they went 20-11 overall last season. Their 12-4 conference record last season was also their best Big Sky mark since going 17-3 in 2013.
- The Vikings returned five starters off last year’s team in outside hitters Makayla Lewis, Zoe McBride and Parker Webb, middle blocker Ashleigh Barto, and libero Ellie Snook. Lewis, Snook and Webb were all All-Big Sky first-team selections last season. Lewis was also named the Big Sky’s Top Newcomer, while Snook earned her second straight Big Sky Libero of the Year honor.
ACE IN THE HOLE
The Vikings had a strong weekend from the service line at the Borderland Invitational, particularly libero Ellie Snook who had seven aces across the Vikings’ three matches in El Paso. Neither should come as much of a surprise after the Vikings totaled 209 aces as a team last season – their highest total since they had 221 in 2005 – while Snook set a single-season program record with 50 aces individually. Parker Webb, who was second on the team with 36 aces last season, had the hot hand on the opening weekend of the season, finishing with six aces over the team’s three matches, including four in the Vikings’ upset win over Oregon State on Aug. 27. Webb now ranks eighth in the Big Sky with 0.43 aces per set this season, while Snook stands right behind her in a tie for ninth with 0.39 aces per set. Those two rank well historically, too, as they’re both among the top 10 all time during the program’s Division I era. Webb ranks third in D1 history with 122 career aces, while Snook ranks seventh with 103. Webb needs only seven more aces to pass Sarah Sirianni (2003-06) for second. Snook, meanwhile, could pass a series of people this weekend. She needs seven to pass Taryn Winters (1996-99) and move into a tie for fifth with Marija Vojnovic (2006-09). Eight aces would give her fifth place on her own, while 10 aces would put her fourth all time, passing Nique Fradella (2006-09).
ALL ABOUT THE DEFENSE
It should come as no surprise, considering it’s a perennial point of emphasis from head coach Michael Seemann, that the Vikings’ defense has been at its best in the team’s wins this season. The Vikings held both Oregon State and UTEP to below .150 hitting in their wins over both teams. Oregon State hit just .122 against the Vikings, while UTEP hit .138. The Vikings also had a season-high 11 blocks against the Miners, while libero Ellie Snook set a new season high with 25 digs in the match. Snook now ranks fourth in the Big Sky with 3.91 digs per set, though all of the Vikings’ statistical rankings have been affected by the quality of opponents they’ve been playing. Besides Snook, outside hitter Sophia Meyers averages 2.82 digs per set as a key member of the Viking defense. Middle blocker Ashleigh Barto leads the team with 0.96 blocks per set, while fellow middles Morgan Halady (0.75 b/s) and Ashlyn Blotzer (0.63 b/s) follow behind her.
ELLIE SNOOK – CAREER RECORD CHASE
Ellie Snook joined elite company last season when she became just the fifth player in Big Sky history to be named Big Sky Libero of the Year in back-to-back years. Now, she turns her sights on the Portland State career record for digs, something she could reach this season if she maintains her level of production over the first three years of her career. Snook currently stands second all time in Division I program history and third all time across all eras with 1,689 career digs. She needs 54 digs to pass Eavi Shovlin (1994-97) for second on the all-era list, and 163 to pass Kasimira Clark (2011-14) for the career record. Snook has totaled over 600 digs in each of her two full seasons at Portland State (her sophomore season was the pandemic-shortened 2021 spring season). If she has a comparable season this year, then she would pass Clark for the record sometime in the middle third of the season. Snook already holds the career record for digs per set, and owns the record by some margin. Snook’s 5.15 digs-per-set average is well ahead of Clark’s average of 4.27 digs per set, which ranks second all time.
The Big Sky’s Top Newcomer last year, Makayla Lewis has picked up where she left through the first two weeks of the season. Lewis recorded 20+ kills for a second time this season in the Vikings’ five-set road win at UTEP last Friday. Lewis finished with 20 kills on .286 hitting in the match while adding eight digs and a career-high five blocks. Lewis also had a double-double of 15 kills and 11 digs to go with three blocks in the Vikings’ four-set loss to South Dakota Friday morning. It was Lewis’ second double-double of the season to date, as well as the 21st of her career. Lewis now ranks seventh in the Big Sky with 3.48 kills per set for the season, while also averaging 2.00 digs and 0.61 blocks per set. Lewis also ended last season on a hot streak, as she averaged 3.55 kills and 2.95 digs per set in conference play. Nine of Lewis’ 14 double-doubles last season came against Big Sky opponents, including eight in the team’s final 12 conference matches of the season. Lewis finished the season ranked sixth in the Big Sky in both kills per set (3.23) and points per set (3.72) across all matches.
Spider-Man, or Spider-Woman, in our universe goes by the name of Parker Webb. Not Peter Parker. Parker Webb had her best season as a Viking last season, earning All-Big Sky first-team honors after ranking eighth in the Big Sky in points per set (3.58) and 10th in kills per set (3.02). In addition to the all-conference first team, Webb made the conference’s all-tournament team last season after averaging 3.44 kills per set on .373 hitting in the team’s two matches at the tournament. Webb led the Vikings with 16 kills on .293 hitting as the team avenged two losses to Sacramento State during the regular season with a five-set win to open the tournament. Webb has been on fire from the service line to start this season, as she has a team-high 10 aces so far, four of which came in the Vikings’ 3-1 upset win over Oregon State on Aug. 27. She heads into this weekend ranked eighth in the Big Sky with 0.43 aces per set, and needs only seven more aces to pass Sarah Sirianni (2003-06) for second on the Division I career list at Portland State. Webb can also tie the record for matches played this weekend, if she plays in all three matches, and will move into second place on the Division I career kills list with 42 more.
Like Makayla Lewis last year, Sophia Meyers has been a strong addition for the Vikings at outside hitter. Meyers ranks second on the team in both kills and digs, averaging 2.45 kills and 2.82 digs per set, respectively. Meyers has been at her best in the Vikings’ two wins so far this season. She had a double-double of 12 kills and 13 digs while hitting .281 in the Vikings’ win over Oregon State on Aug. 27. She topped that in the win over UTEP this past Friday, as she recorded the first 15-15 match of her career with 18 kills and 17 digs to go with three aces and two blocks. Her 22.0 combined points against the Aggies set a new career high, while her 18 kills tied a career high. Additionally, Meyers has been close to double-doubles in two other matches, as she had eight kills and 12 digs against Long Beach State on Aug. 26, and finished a kill short against South Dakota with nine kills and 10 digs last Friday.
It was a familiar top three in the Big Sky preseason coaches poll. The Vikings were picked to finish third, the same spot they finished last season when they placed a game behind co-regular-season champions Northern Colorado and Weber State. Northern Colorado, which went on to win the Big Sky tournament last season, topped the poll with 78 points after receiving first-place votes from six of the other nine teams in the conference. Weber State finished second with 70 points and two first-place votes, while the Vikings finished third with 66 points and one first-place vote.
Aug. 27, 2022, Portland State 3, Oregon State 1: The Vikings recorded their first win over Oregon State since 1990, as well as their first win over a Pac-12 opponent since 2017 by handling the Beavers at home. The Vikings had been just 5-43 all time against Pac-12 opponents since becoming a Division I program, but won their sixth match against the Beavers.
Sept. 2, 2022, Portland State 3, UTEP 2: The Vikings avenged a home loss to UTEP last season by beating the Miners at their home tournament, the Borderland Invitational. The victory gave the Vikings a win over a team that went 24-8 overall and advanced to the semifinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC).