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SCORESHEET: Serving up a winner at Portland State

by: COURTESY OF SCOTT LARSON - Garyn Schlatter's play has helped Portland State start 8-0 in the Big Sky Conference for the first time.Portland State volleyball is serving up something good. The team is 8-0 in the Big Sky Conference for the first time and is taking aim at a third trip to the NCAA tournament in five years.

The Vikings are doing it this season with a blend of talent, good offense and defense, and improved, more aggressive serving.

Fifth-year coach Michael Seemann says a focus on “tough serving” has helped set the table for the Vikings’ run, which included 3-0 home sweeps last weekend of perennial Big Sky contender Northern Colorado and North Dakota.

“A lot of people talk about serving tough and what that means,” Seemann says, “but the challenge is how to build serving tough into your practice and create environments where the outcome of the serve has an impact on points.

“This is the first time in my career in Division I that the kids are totally locked in and understand the value of the serve. It’s the one thing you have complete control over in our sport.”

The Vikings don’t agonize over service errors as much as they reward aces or good serves that help to take an opponent out of its offensive system.

“We understand that if we’re not missing some serves periodically, we’re not serving tough enough,” Seemann says. “The culture we’ve built in this program is to go for it.”

The proof isn’t so much in the stats on aces and errors, he says, as it is in opponents’ hitting percentage. The Viks, who are hitting .209 (fifth in the Big Sky), are allowing their opponents .181 hitting (tied for third).

PSU has six primary servers, including 5-7 sophomore Kasimira Clark (27 aces), 5-8 junior Kaeli Patton (19) and 5-9 senior Dominika Kristinikova (10), who grew up in Slovakia.

Senior Megan Ellis, one of the team’s top hitters, has 15 aces. The 6-0 Ellis (3.33 kills per set) has extra help up front this season from UO transfer Jaklyn Wheeler, a 6-0 junior (4.23 kills per set).

“Jakyln is very, very active, and can bring it from anywhere,” Seemann says. “Megan is the same way and is very experienced and a steady Eddy. Both of them handle the ball well, pass well and defend. Having Jaklyn come here pushed Megan from day one, but they complement each other well.”

Third in points for the Viks is Leigh-Ann Haataja, a 6-1 sophomore. “She’s been outstanding and has come a long way, both as a blocker and offensively,” Seemann says.

And, as a distributor, 5-10 junior Garyn Schlatter from Canby leads the way with 11 assists per set, third in the Big Sky. The Vikings have “clarified her role this year,” Seemann says, using her solely as a setter after she mixed in some hitting duties with her setting last season.

PSU has 12 more regular-season matches, including Friday at Idaho State and Saturday at Weber State. And then it will all come down to — as it always does — the conference tournament, to be hosted by the regular-season champion Nov. 23-24. The Big Sky tourney gets an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, and odds are good it will be the league’s only spot in the national playoffs.

“It’s a tough region, with six or seven Pac-12 teams probably getting in and the West Coast Conference having some good teams, too,” Seemann says. “The Big Sky as a whole is so much better this year than it has been, but you might still be talking about just one team making it.”

Seemann says he’d like to see the conference send its regular-season winner to the NCAA tourney — “and I’ve been on both sides of it.”

The other thing he’d love to see is more fans in the seats at Stott Center matches. Average home attendance this season: 416.

“We’re consistently disappointed with the turnout,” he says. “We have a winning product, an exciting, dynamic game.”

On Campus

n In soccer, the University of Portland men are tied for first in the West Coast Conference and the PSU women are leading the Big Sky.

The WCC regular-season men’s champion gets what could be the conference’s only spot in the 48-team NCAA tournament. Portland is No. 49 in the RPI rankings. Saint Mary’s, 19th, is the only WCC team rated higher than UP.

In the Big Sky, the regular-season champion plays host to a four-team tournament Nov. 1-4, the winner of which gets into the NCAA tourney. Any other Big Sky team would have to make the 64-team NCAA field via the RPI, something that is highly unlikely.

n In Monmouth, coach Steve Ancheta (former Central Catholic High coach) has the Wolves’ women’s soccer team at 4-3-1 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference after their 1-0 weekend upset on the road of Montana State Billings. Ex-Wilson High standout Lindsay Bauman, a senior midfielder, scored in the 109th minute. She leads the Wolves with 10 points.

n Another week, another Andre Broadous mention. The Cal Poly senior QB from Grant High threw a career-high three TD passes in a 45-23 victory over Weber State last week. With a win Saturday at home over Northern Colorado, 14th-ranked Cal Poly would take a 6-0 record into its Oct. 20 home tilt with Portland State.

Players of the week

(League honoring them in parentheses)

n Football — Kieran McDonagh, PSU (Big Sky offense). He accounted for six TDs in a 77-10 win over Idaho State.; Jack Nelson, Linfield (Northwest Conference defense). The sophomore linebacker from Jesuit High stepped in for an injured starter and registered a team-high 14 tackles, 12 solo, as the 5-0 Bearcats beat Whitworth 38-24.

n Men's soccer — Jared Brace, Concordia (Cascade Collegiate Conference offense). He had both goals in a 2-0 win over Oregon Tech for the 8-2-1 Cavaliers.

n Women's soccer — Tori Talbutt, Concordia (CCC defense). Goalie blanked OIT and Southern Oregon and has 0.36 goals against average this season for the No. 1-ranked Cavs (9-0-2).; Emily Fellows, Linfield (NWC offense). The junior from Jesuit headed in the winning goal with 11 seconds left in OT as Linfield enjoyed its first home win over Whitworth in seven years. The next day, her header forced overtime, and the Wildcats beat Whitman, also 2-1. Fellows leads the conference with 12 goals, and Linfield is in a three-way battle for the title with Whitworth and Puget Sound.

n Volleyball — Garyn Schlatter, PSU (Big Sky). In 3-0 sweeps of Northern Colorado and North Dakota, she averaged 11.33 assists per set, with a team-high eight blocks, eight kills, nine digs and two service aces.; Jackie Stein, Concordia (CCC hitter). 5-10 freshman from Westview High totaled 34 kills as 7-4 Cavaliers split at SOU and OIT.; Kelsey Kai, Concordia (libero). Junior out of Reynolds High had 55 digs in the two road matches.

n Women's golf — Sunny Powers, Concordia (CCC). Senior placed sixth in the St. Martin's Invitational, shooting a 16-over-par 160 at Olympia (Wash.) Golf and Country Club.

Elsewhere

n Trail Blazers fans could have special interest in one of the opposing players when Portland and the New York Knicks meet Thursday, March 14 at the Rose Garden and Tuesday, Jan. 1 at Madison Square Garden. Ex-Blazer Rasheed Wallace is launching an NBA comeback with the Knicks.

n After a foot injury to Cedric Benson, backup Green Bay running back Alex Green, from Benson High, got a chance to contribute Sunday against Indianapolis. Green had 55 yards on nine carries, including a 41-yard burst that set up a TD, giving Green Bay a 27-22 lead that it couldn’t hold in the 30-27 loss. Green’s run was the longest by a Packer since Dec. 11, 2011.

With Benson expected to miss at least eight weeks, Green should be in the rotation, starting Sunday night at 5-0 Houston.

n The American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League start their season on Friday with several NHL players joining AHL regulars due to the big league’s labor strife.

The list of AHL players includes former Winterhawks

Nino Niederreiter (Bridgeport Sound Tigers), Ryan Johansen and Oliver Gabriel (Springfield Falcons), Riley Boychuk (Rochester Americans), Brett Ponich (Peoria Rivermen), Luke Walker (Lake Erie Monsters), Spencer Bennett (Portland Pirates), Frazer McLaren (Worcester Sharks), Marcel Noebels (Adirondack Phantoms) and Colton Sceviour (Texas Stars).

The ECHL has Brandon Dubinsky (Alaska Aces) and Taylor Aronson (Cincinnati Cyclones).

n Mike Pierce of Portland knocked out Aaron Simpson in their UFC undercard bout last week in Minneapolis. Pierce raised his MMA record to 15-5, after surviving a first-round flurry by Simpson.

Commentary

n Looks like the country’s soccer powers all are seriously brainstorming a new women’s professional league that would begin play in 2013 and help support the U.S. national program. It’s time for Portland to have a team in any new league. It would be an embarrassent for the city not to be represented and for the likes of Portland’s Megan Rapinoe and others to be playing for a team in Seattle.

n As for the Timbers and their frequent criticism of MLS referees ... if the refs just would have given Portland four penalty kicks Sunday night at Seattle, Merritt Paulson’s team probably would have done all right.

Happy birthday

Oct. 11, 1938 — Darrall Imhoff (age 74)

Oct. 13, 1978 — Jermaine O’Neal (age 34)

Oct. 14, 1986 — Wesley Matthews (age 26)

Oct. 15, 1990 — Kalif Alhassan (age 22)

Oct. 16, 1941 — Mel Counts (age 71)

Oct. 17, 1942 — Steve Jones (age 70)

This day in Oregon

sports history

Oct. 16, 1970 — The Blazers win their first NBA game. They beat Cleveland 115-112 before 4,273 at Memorial Coliseum.

Oct. 18, 1976 — The Blazers trade Moses Malone to the Buffalo Braves for cash and a 1978 first-round draft pick (which eventually brought them Mychal Thompson).

Oct. 17, 1987 — Blazers center Sam Bowie fractures his right tibia in an exhibition game. Bowie had broken his leg in the same area the year before. It is his fifth leg injury in seven years. Second-year center Kevin Duckworth moves up in the rotation.

Oct. 18, 1995 — The Blazers play in the Rose Garden for the first time. They lose a preseason game to Minnesota 114-110 before a capacity crowd of 21,398.

Oct. 14, 2010 — Merritt Paulson sells the Portland Beavers.

Tweets of the week

I feel sorry for my timbers, they don’t have a system of play don’t play nothing

Byron Alvarez.Timber “@capimatador23

How would you like to visit the Rose Garden 40 times this season for as low as $6 a game?

Details http://bit.ly/Rgvw74 #DealOfTheWeek

Trail Blazers “@pdxtrailblazers

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