PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland State volleyball team responded Saturday. The Vikings not only responded after a tough loss to rival University of Portland Thursday. They also responded after losing a second set they likely should have won within Saturday’s match against Seattle University at the Portland North Marriott Invitational.
The loss in the second set was eerily similar to how the Vikings’ match against the Pilots went on Thursday at the Chiles Center. The Vikings found themselves unlucky to be tied at 1-1 against the Pilots despite having out-hit, out-killed, out-blocked and out-dug Portland to that point. Saturday, it was a similar story, as the Vikings led 16-7 midway through the second set, only to lose it, 25-23.
But whereas the second-set loss Thursday put the Vikings in a funk while spurring on the Pilots, the Vikings responded this time.
“It’s about executing. We did a better job of executing today,” Portland State head coach Michael Seemann said of how his team responded. “We had a very spirited team [against us Thursday] that was running on its home-crowd energy. I thought that we did a good job of staying more process-oriented today and kind of taking the wind out of the sails of Seattle U.”
The Vikings (5-6) hit over .300 in both the third and fourth sets after the Redhawks tied it at a set apiece. The Portland State defense, meanwhile, held the Redhawks (4-3) to just 13 combined kills on .088 hitting across the final two sets of the match.
Sophia Meyers and Parker Webb provided a standout 1-2 punch for the Vikings throughout Saturday’s match. Meyers set a new career high with 23 kills on a career-best .400 hitting percentage. Meanwhile, Webb saw more action Saturday as the Vikings stayed in a 5-1 formation for all but the final few points of the first set. The Vikings’ sixth-year senior responded with season highs for kills (18) and digs (11), recording her first double-double of the season while hitting .378.
“Huge offensive day for both of them,” Seemann said of Meyers and Webb. “I thought their hitting choices were good, especially Parker’s matchup was something we felt we could exploit, for sure.”
Both players also contributed to one of the biggest turnarounds from Thursday’s match against the Pilots. The Vikings gave up 13 aces to the Pilots while only getting six aces themselves. Saturday, the Vikings set a new season with 13 aces of their own while holding Seattle U to four.
Webb had three aces, tying her with setter Madison Friebel for the team lead. Meyers, Makayla Lewis and Ellie Snook all had two aces, meanwhile, while Ashleigh Barto added another.
“Obviously we had a good serving day, striking the ball well from the end line. But also, I thought we just did a better job of taking their high balls, their out-of-system balls and turning those into swings,” Seemann said of the team’s serving and how it fueled the offense.
Webb’s three aces gave her dual milestones within Saturday’s match. Webb passed Richell Wilson (2000-03) for second in career kills within Division I program history with her first kill of the match. She then passed Sarah Sirianni (2003-06) for second in career aces with her third of the day early in the fourth set of the match. Webb now ranks second in Division I history in kills (1,222), points (1,481.5), aces (129) and sets played (460), while she owns the record for matches played at 127.
Unsurprisingly, it was Webb and Meyers that set the tone early in the match. Webb had seven kills in the first set alone, while Meyers was right behind her with six. Webb had kills on four straight Viking points at one point early in the first set, as she and Meyers combined for 10 kills on the Vikings’ first 13 points of the match. Meyers had two of her six kills during a finishing 5-0 run for the Vikings when she also had a block with Ashlyn Blotzer.
The pair also came up big when the Vikings needed them after their frustrating loss in the second set. Webb had three kills, including two back-to-back to finish a 9-0 run that gave the Vikings a commanding 16-8 lead. Meyers also had two kills in that run while finishing with six kills in the frame to Webb’s five.
Makayla Lewis added three kills and five digs in the third set for the Vikings, as she came off the bench and had her best match since the Vikings played Utah State on Sept. 9.
With those three firing, the Vikings outhit the Redhawks .324-to-.129 in the third set while out-killing them 16-to-8. It was a similar story in the fourth set as the Vikings outhit the Redhawks .344-to-.038 in the frame, while out-killing them 16-to-5.
Meyers was the dominant force as the Vikings shut the door on the Redhawks in the fourth. She had seven kills on .583 hitting in the set, with four of her seven kills coming in the middle of a 12-3 run that gave the Vikings a commanding 21-13 lead.
Appropriately, it was an ace that closed it out a few points later, as Friebel recorded her third of the day on the final point of the match.
Overall, the Vikings outhit the Redhakws .263-to-.142, the third time in the Vikings’ past four matches that they’ve hit north of .250 while holding their opponent to under .200 hitting. The Vikings also recorded a season-high 63 kills in the match, as Lewis and Barto added seven kills each behind Meyers and Webb.
Overlooked a bit amid the Vikings’ strong offensive performance was how they dug the ball. The Vikings had four players finish in double figures for just the third time this season, while two more players had at least six digs in the match. Snook led all players with 20 digs, her most in a four-set match this season. Meyers followed Snook with her 13 digs, while Lewis (12 digs) and Webb (11) followed her.
The Vikings’ response Saturday will fuel the team’s confidence as they head into Big Sky Conference play next weekend.
“I think we’re in a good position,” Seemann said of entering conference play. “I feel like we’re a fairly confident team, but we also know that if we don’t execute, then we can easily be beaten, especially on the road. And so, I think that’s a really important lesson that we can carry over [into conference play].”
It’s a doozy of a conference opener for the Vikings, as they host last season’s co-regular-season champion Weber State. The Vikings, who finished a match behind Weber State and Northern Colorado last season, will host the Wildcats at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22.
But as long as the Vikings execute and respond to bad stretches like they did Saturday, then they should remain confident.
Match Notes: The Vikings improved to 7-0 against the Redhawks with Saturday’s win…In addition to Webb moving up to second in career aces, Snook moved into a tie with Marija Vojnovic (2006-09) for fifth in Division I history with her two aces against the Redhawks, giving her 110 in her career…The Vikings’ 13 aces were their most since they had 17 against Pacific (Calif.) in the first round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship last December.