VOLLEYBALLâ€™S SEASON COMES TO AN END WITH SEMIFINAL LOSS AT PORTLAND STATE
Middle blocker Kelsey Elston finished with 11 kills and team highs in hitting percentage (.375) and blocks (6)
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland State’s Megan Ellis led all players with 17 kills and the Vikings limited the Hornets to a .101 hitting percentage on the way to a 3-1 victory (21-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-19) over Sacramento State in a Big Sky Conference Volleyball Tournament semifinal match Friday evening at the Stott Center.
With the loss, the Hornets’ season comes to an end as the team finished the year with a third-place finish in the conference standings and a 10-6 record in league. Sacramento State (17-15 overall) assumed the No. 3 seed for the four-team, single-elimination tournament, but had to face tournament host and No. 2 seed Portland State in the semifinals. The Vikings, who earned the right to host after winning the conference’s regular season title last year, have now won four straight over Sacramento State when playing in Portland.
The Vikings (18-12) will face No. 1 seed Northern Colorado tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. in the championship match, with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. Northern Colorado swept No. 4 seed Eastern Washington in tonight’s other semifinal match.
Sacramento State, which entered the match ranked 12th in the nation in blocks per set, finished with just 8.0 team blocks. That tied for the lowest amount in the team’s last 14 matches. The Hornets were playing without senior middle blocker Maddison Thivierge (knee) who is ranked second in the conference in blocks. Only two Sacramento State players finished with more than two blocks, comprised of middle blocker Kelsey Elston (6) and setter Anna Schoener (4).
Conversely, Portland State had 15.0 team blocks, including eight from Leigh-Ann Haataja and seven from Katie O’Brien. Five of the Vikings’ six starters had at least four blocks. In addition, the Vikings took advantage of 11 Sacramento State service errors, tying for the fourth most by the Hornets this season.
Despite all that, Sacramento State still had chances to win. The Hornets hit .289 in the first set to get out to a 1-0 lead in the match after claiming a 25-21 win in the first frame. The team found itself down, 22-19, in the second, but ran off three straight points, including a combo block from Schoener and Elston to tie things at 22-22. However, a kill from PSU’s Aubrey Mitchell and back-to-back Hornet attack errors allowed the Vikings to claim the second set. That seemed to give Portland State plenty of momentum as, after the Vikings took a 5-4 lead in the third set, the team never trailed again the rest of the evening.
The Vikings finished the match hitting .176 and held statistical advantages over Sacramento State in kills (52-46), hitting percentage (.176-.101), assists (51-42), digs (86-78) and team blocks (15.0-8.0).
Outside hitter Eryn Kirby led the Hornets in kills with 16, while middle blocker Kelsey Elston had 11 kills, and posted team highs in hitting percentage (.375) and blocks (6). Among Sacramento State players that tallied more than one kill, Elston was the only Hornet to hit better than .151. She had just two errors in 24 total attacks, and was Sacramento State's lone representative on the all-tournament team. Kirby tacked on 10 digs to finish the season with 16 double-doubles. Rightside hitter Kayla Beal added eight kills.
Kirby was one of four Sacramento State players with double figures in digs, including libero Breanne Menees (25), outside hitter Janelle Currey (17) and defensive specialist Sydney Kordic (12). Schoener had a team-high 21 assists to go along with her four blocks. The Hornets finished with seven service aces, including two each from Currey, Menees and setter Hannah Hettinga.
For Portland State, Ellis’ 17 kills were eight more than any other Viking as she also had 13 digs and four blocks. Haataja had eight kills, and posted match highs in hitting percentage (.500) and blocks (8). Libero Nicole Bateham led all players with 29 digs, and setter Garyn Schlatter had six kills, 35 assists, 17 digs and five blocks.
Tonight marked the final matches in the careers of five Sacramento State seniors, which includes Kirby, Elston, Menees, Schoener and Thivierge. All five factored heavily into a team that finished with an overall record above .500 for the first time since the 2007 season, qualified for the Big Sky Tournament for the first time since 2008, and had its highest finish in the league standings (3rd) since 2007.