Playing on the road is tough, but it gets tougher when playing a team like Portland State University, which hasn’t lost a conference game at home over the past two years. The Weber State University volleyball team couldn’t get into an offensive groove, losing in straight sets 25-9, 25-11, 25-15. The loss dropped WSU’s record to 5-19, 1-9 in Big Sky play, while PSU improved to 11-9, 8-2 in conference.
It was another match when it seemed the Wildcats were outmatched and dominated on the majority of the stat line. PSU sits second in the conference standings, but head coach Tom Peterson said that was the best team they have played in the Big Sky so far this year.
“They are the best we have played in conference, just their execution and how they are coached,” Peterson said. “They put some nice things together. We just didn’t play as we needed to compete in that match.”
The Vikings’ execution led to them outplaying the Wildcats as they dominated the net, outhitting the Wildcats with 43 kills to 22. For the first time all season, the Wildcats were unable to get a block. They also struggled on returning the ball, as PSU used the momentum from 10 service aces to control the match.
Even with all the difficulties and subpar ball control, junior Audrey Biggs led the team once again with 10 kills. Every time she was blocked, she made sure to swing harder the next time she had a chance. Sophomore Whitney Hunt once again fed out the assists to her teammates, contributing on 14 of the team’s 22 assists.
PSU was able to use runs to put the Wildcats away early, using runs of 17-4 and 15-4 in the first two sets. In that second set alone, PSU hit .500 and had 15 kills accompanied with just one error.
Even after being in a game where the team struggled, Peterson said he was confident this match was but a steppingstone.
“We have to learn from the last two games and what it has meant to us,” he said. “We can’t make losing big a part of us. PSU is the standard; we matched up better to these guys than we do to some other teams. We can’t just give up; we have worked too hard.
“But we have to serve together, we need to receive better if we are going to put ourselves in these games. There is no team in the league that is superhuman or unbeatable.”
Junior Emily Hairgrove said each game was a learning experience, and practice is an essential part of the week to work on the things the team may be struggling with. Having contributed two digs in the match, she said she can continue and improve to make a bigger impact.
“The match didn’t go as expected,” she said. “I think that we could have went out harder. We can fix it in practice. We can work on serving and returning balls this week. In the match I got a couple big digs, and I felt that helped the team out.”
Sophomore Samantha Staker, who has been battling injuries throughout the season, is positive that, once the team can control against a team like PSU, the wins will start coming in bunches.
“I think we learned that we need to improve our ball control,” she said, “especially against a tougher-serving team, and when we do that, we can really start to compete with those teams.”
The Wildcats will return home for a four-game home stand as they take on Northern Arizona University on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Swenson Gym.