Portland State sweeps Montana, takes on Idaho State in Saturday's Big Sky finale

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Portland State's Katie O'Brien celebrates a kill with teammate Kaeli Patton during the Vikings' three-set semifinal win over Montana on Friday night. Portland State made quick work of Montana in the Big Sky Conference volleyball semifinals Friday night at Stott Center, dismissing the Grizzlies 25-19, 25-19, 25-9.

The Vikings took charge with Shelbi Miyashiro serving a five-point spurt for a 12-5 lead in the opening set. The Vikings won the longest volley of the game when Jaklyn Wheeler buried a kill into the back corner.

Portland State kept up the pressure, as setter Garyn Schlatter put a ball across the front row to what seemed like an empty spot before teammate Kaeli Patton appeared from beyond the 10-foot line and powered a kill through the middle.

Montana ended the first set with a serve that sailed long and an attack that went wide.

Portland State surrendered the opening point of the middle set, marking the only time it would find itself trailing in the match.

The Vikings quickly remedied the situation. Aubrey Mitchell pounded a kill from the right side, Leigh-Ann Haataja blasted a kill off the hands of a Grizzly with a loud thud, and Wheeler sent a winner down the line.

“Our setter does a good job distributing the ball, and it keeps the defense guessing when we’re using every hitter,” Haataja said. “We did a good job taking care of things on our side of the net.”

Schlatter followed with a blind flick over her shoulder for another point that put the Vikings in command 9-3.

“When it’s there, it’s there,” Schlatter said. “Sometimes the defense forgets about me.”

The attack just kept coming. Haataja hit a shot that pin-balled off three Grizzlies before getting trapped in the bottom of the net. Haataja added an ace to increase the margin to 22-13, and Mitchell finished the set with a block.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Portland State's Jaklyn Wheeler prepares for a dig during the team's win Friday night.

The teams took a 10-minute break before the third set. Montana, the No. 5 seed that had knocked off No. 4 Northern Arizona in a morning quarterfinal, would have been better off staying in the locker room.

The final game was never in doubt, with Schlatter connecting on three straight aces for a 13-4 lead.

She converted a pair of dump shots in the late stages of play, including match point, as the Grizzlies were held in single digits.

“We keyed in on their scorers, and just kept building momentum with every set,” PSU coach Michael Seamann said.

Portland State forced first-serve side-outs on all 10 Grizzlies chances.

Haataja led the Vikings with 11 kills, while Wheeler had nine, Patton had eight, and Mitchell and Schlatter seven apiece.

Schlatter had a game-high 34 assists and 11 digs, and PSU's Kasimir Clark led everyone with 18 digs.

Montana (16-15) hit .125, the Viks .261.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Portland State's Leigh-Ann Haataja celebrates one of her team-high 11 kills Friday night against Montana.

The top-seeded Vikings (21-10) advance to face No. 3-seed Idaho State in the Big Sky title match at 7 p.m. Saturday, also at Stott Center. The winner earns at automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Portland State took both regular-season meetings, including a five-setter last week at Pocatello, Idaho. The regular-season match at home went to PSU 3-1. The Viks outscored ISU by 15 points Oct. 17 at home but by only one point on the road last week.

Idaho State (22-11) advanced Friday with four-set wins over No. 6 seed Northern Colorado and No. 2 North Dakota.

“They do a good job of staying balanced. We’re going to have to serve tough and get them out of their system,” Seamann said. “We’ve been working toward this match since August, going through a brutal road season. Now, we’re playing at home — it’s a chance to exhale a bit and try to win this thing.”

That early-season schedule included matches against five teams ranked in the top-25, with PSU taking sets from No. 23 Oklahoma and No. 24 Arizona.

  • View a photo gallery from tonight’s match at …

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