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2013 Volleyball Season Preview Part One: Big Sky Title Defense
Written by Ryan McCall    Monday, 19 August 2013 16:48   

Jaklyn Wheeler

Jaklyn Wheeler Was named the Big Sky's Top Newcomer in 2012

This is the first in a two-part season preview of the Portland State volleyball team. Today's article features a general preview of the season and also looks at the Vikings' 2013 schedule and the makeup of the Big Sky Conference. Part two, which will be released Wednesday, will look at the Vikings position-by-position.

Over the past six years the Portland State women's volleyball team has seen success unparalleled in recent Big Sky Conference history. The Vikings enter the 2013 season as the defending Big Sky regular season champions after claiming the title for the fourth time in the last six years. They have also been to the NCAA Tournament twice, 2008 and 2010.

Sixth-year head coach Michael Seemann (122-58 overall, 81-19 Big Sky Conference) has made his mark on the conference by fielding veteran teams and 2013 will be no different. The Vikings will field a squad of six seniors, six juniors, and just two underclassmen. They will need to rely on this very experienced unit if the Vikings are going to again be the biggest in the sky and reclaim the Big Sky Tournament trophy to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Portland State went 21-11 overall and 17-3 in Big Sky play claiming the conference's regular season championship on the final day of the regular season. Portland State and Idaho State entered the regular season finale tied at 16-3. The teams split the first two sets before the Vikings went on a roll and took the final two sets to win 3-1.

Following the season last year, PSU lost a pair to graduation in OH Megan Ellis and DS Dominika Kristinikova. The resulting team has tremendous depth with 10 returners who saw playing time.

The Vikings return two All-Big Sky first teamers in senior S Garyn Schlatter and senior OH Jaklyn Wheeler. Schlatter led the team in assists last season with 1,252 (10.61 aps). She also added 282 digs (2.39 dps) and was third on the squad with 97 total blocks (8-89).

Wheeler returns as the Big Sky's reigning Top Newcomer. She led the Vikings with 423 kills (3.81 kps) while tallying 319 digs (2.87 dps). She led the conference with 17 double-doubles. She played in her first live match-like scrimmage on Aug. 17, 2013, nine months to the day after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the Vikings' regular season finale against Idaho State on Nov. 17, 2012. She played all four sets of the scrimmage and looks to be near full strength by the start of the season.

Junior L Kasimira "Kasi" Clark returns for the Vikings as the reigning Big Sky Libero of the Year. Clark set the Portland State all-time single-season digs record a year ago with 635 (5.38 dps). She also added 38 aces to emerge as as one of the Vikings' best servers.

The Vikings also welcome two newcomers to the team with the addition of junior transfer OH Brigid Campbell from Dayton University and freshman DS Valerie Hughes.

"It's no question that we have an experienced team with how the classes line up and the amount of starts that have been in major roles for us for quite a few years," Seemann said of this year's squad. "It lends itself to us having great familiarity with the conference and the expectations of the program."

The Schedule and the Big Sky Conference

Three home tournaments, including the Big Sky Championship Tournament, highlight the Portland State volleyball 2013 schedule. The Vikings will play 16 of their 30 scheduled matches at home, the most since 1992.

The Vikings begin their 2013 campaign by welcoming No. 5 Washington, Gonzaga, and Boise State to the Peter W. Stott Center Aug. 30-31 for the Northwest Challenge. It will be the sixth time that the Vikings have participated in the challenge and the second time they have hosted.

Portland State will play a midweek non-conference match with the reigning national runner-up University of Oregon Tuesday, Sept. 3 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.

PSU will return home to The Stott Center to host its second tournament of the season when it welcomes BYU, Oklahoma, and The University of the Pacific Sept. 6-7. The Vikings faced off with BYU and Pacific in 2012; it will be their first meeting all-time with Oklahoma.

"We haven't hosted a tournament in a while, so having two weekends in a row at home is fantastic for us," Seemann said. "The quality of teams that are coming in and the opportunity to play them at home is huge. The Northwest Challenge is always a good barometer because we see those teams every year."

The Vikings wrap up the non-conference portion of their schedule by heading to Hawaii for a three-day tournament Sept. 12-14. They will match up with host Hawai'i, Arizona, and Northwestern.

"It's a great experience for Kaeli Patton and Shelbi Miyashiro to be back home and play in front of their families in Hawaii," Seemann added.

Portland State will have 10 non-conference matches to start the season. Five of those 10 matches will be against NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago. They will also include a trio of games against Pacific-12 Conference opponents.

The Vikings open the 2013 Big Sky Conference regular season with a four-match home stand. They begin with Sacramento State (9/21) and Eastern Washington (9/23). Montana (9/27) and Montana State (9/28) will come to The Stott Center the following weekend.

"Sacramento State is always an enigma," Seemann said. "Last year we limped out of there with a win to start conference play, and it ended up being a catalyst for our season. Being able to see them at home first and early in our season will allow us to know what we're up against before we go there. It is also nice to start the two main parts of our schedule, non-conference and then conference, at home."

Portland State will hit the road for four-matches against Northern Arizona (10/3), Southern Utah (10/5), Northern Colorado (10/10), and North Dakota (10/12).

The Vikings then close out the first half of conference play by hosting Idaho State (10/17) and Weber State (10/19). The teams will then do it all over again, this time switching home locations; the Vikings end the regular season on the road with Weber State and Idaho State.

Portland State earned the right to host the 2013 Big Sky Tournament, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29-30 at The Stott Center by winning their regular season title in 2012.

"It gives us a lot of confidence throughout the conference season knowing we're going to be at home for the tournament," Seemann said. "The way we scheduled two tournaments at home early in the season, we're building a good environment for packing out the Stott throughout the tournament. Knowing that if we earn a spot in the tournament we're going to be playing at home is a tremendous advantage."

The Vikings host their annual Alumni Match Saturday, Aug. 24 at The Stott Center starting at 7 p.m. They will welcome back several former players including a pair of Big Sky MVPs.  Admission is free and all supporters of PSU Volleyball are encouraged to attend.

 

--
Ryan McCall
Assistant Media Relations Director, Portland State University

Volleyball, Women's Basketball, Softball
PH: 503.725.5744 | CELL: 503.473.4154

 

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