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Viking Watch: Volleyball builds up wins at home

The Portland State volleyball team was perfect over the first four Big Sky matches of the season. All four were played at home, where the Vikings traditionally have been dominant.

“We thrive at home,” Portland State coach Michael Seemann says. “We’ve lost four conference matches at home in the last four years.”

When October rolled around, though, the Vikings faced a difficult challenge: four road matches. Portland State dropped the first match to Northern Arizona 3-0, then defeated Southern Utah 3-0 and Northern Colorado 3-1, before finishing the stretch with a 3-2 loss to North Dakota.

“We’ve been fairly pleased with the season,” Seemann says.

Portland State is a predominantly junior and senior team with quality leadership and talent, especially from the senior class. Garyn Schlatter, a 5-10 senior setter has taken on a large leadership role.

“Garyn stands out as someone who has given us a consistent presence for the last four years, but this year in particular,” Seemann says.

Aubrey Mitchell, a 5-10 senior, leads the Vikings with 175 kills.

Kasimira “Kasi” Clark was libero of the year in the Big Sky Conference last season and has continued playing well this season. The 5-7 junior leads the league in digs per set (5.02).

“ ‘Kasi’ is arguably the best libero in the conference again,” Seemann says.

The Vikings (9-9, 6-2 Big Sky) are tied for second in the Big Sky with Northern Arizona and Idaho State, behind North Dakota (8-0).

Twelve matches remain, starting with 7 p.m. Stott Center meetings with Idaho State tonight and Weber State (1-7) on Saturday.

Portland State, the league leader in aces and digs, is likely to finish among the top six teams in the conference, which would automatically get the Viks into the Big Sky tournament.

PSU will play host to the tourney Nov. 29-30.

“If we do make the top six, we feel like our chances are pretty good,” Seemann says. Having the tournament in Portland “certainly helps from a confidence standpoint. There’s a very high level of comfort and confidence this team has playing at home.”

A top-two finish in the regular season would give PSU a first-round tournament bye.

“Three or four teams in the conference can win it,” Seemann says, “so it will be pretty interesting.”

• Portland State also has a shot at playing host to the Big Sky women’s soccer tournament Nov. 7-10. The regular-season champion will get that honor, and going into this week the Vikings were on top of the conference at 5-0-1 (16 points).

With three matches remaining, PSU has a six-point lead on three teams tied for second — Weber State and Northern Colorado (both 3-1-1) and Sacramento State (3-2-1).

Northern Arizona is fifth at 3-2-0 (9 points), after falling to the Viks 2-1 in overtime Sunday at Hillsboro Stadium. Sophomore midfielder Cori Bianchini’s golden goal with 3:10 left in the first OT, after a short cross from sophomore Tamia Hasan, snapped the Vikings’ eight-game winless streak against NAU.

Portland State plays its final regular-season games on the road, taking on Weber State today, Idaho State (2-1-2) on Saturday and Sacramento State on Oct. 25.