West Linn's Ellie Snook now starring for Portland State volleyball
During her high school career, 2019 West Linn graduate Ellie Snook absolutely ruled the world of Oregon prep volleyball.
Snook led the Lions to back-to-back third-place finishes at the Class 6A state tournament, was named Three Rivers League Player of the Year in both 2017 and 2018, and also was named first-team all-state in each of her final two high school seasons. West Linn also won three straight outright league titles and a co-championship over Snook's West Linn career.
Now, Snook, 18, has set her sights on doing it all again in the world of college volleyball.
Less than two months into her first college season, Snook — a 5-foot-7 freshman libero on the Portland State University volleyball team — is off to a flying start.
Snook has started every match of the year for the Vikings and has quickly proved her worth as a collegian, ranking 13th nationally in digs and first among freshmen liberos in digs per set at 5.32.
Along the way, she had 30 digs in the Vikings' 3-2 home loss to California State University, Northridge, on Sept. 14, making her the first Viking freshman to record 30 digs in a match in at least 10 years. Neither Kasi Clark nor Tash Bojanic — both were named Big Sky Libero of the Year later in their careers — had as many digs in a match as freshmen.
Snook then topped herself with 39 digs against Southern Utah on Oct. 5, the third-most ever by a Viking.
So far, Snook is taking her college success in stride.
"I did expect (to start) because, up until two months before I got here, I was the only defensive player on the roster," Snook said, noting PSU's losses of two graduates and one transfer. "Defensively, we're playing very well. In the Big Sky (Conference), we're up there as a team."
One of the keys to Snook's quick start at college has been her almost seamless transition to life on the Park Blocks. As the daughter of former PSU basketball player Jamie Snook (a Lakeridge graduate who played for the Vikings from 1996-1999), she was around PSU a lot growing up and felt comfortable very quickly in her new college home.
"I remember going to watch PSU volleyball when I was a kid — my mom played volleyball (at Pepperdine) and PSU was the closest (college) we could go to," said Snook, who was eventually offered a full scholarship by the Vikings. "Obviously, I had no idea that I'd go there, but I remember wearing my dad's PSU sweatshirt and it was always a favorite."
These days, Snook lives with her volleyball teammates in the freshman dorm on campus.
"It's nice to be so close to home — I definitely rely in my parents a lot — so the biggest adjustment has been not living at home," Snook said. "Also, because we travel so much, it's really different playing in front of so many people you don't know."
Through matches of Saturday, Oct. 12, the Vikings are holding their own in Big Sky competition, currently sitting at 3-3 in league play and 7-10 overall, that despite the fact that their 12-player team includes eight new members this season.
"It's great we're doing so well as a team," Snook said. "We've had to get close to each other really quickly."
And to be fair, she has plenty of local fans at the Vikings' home matches.
"(As a team), we have a pretty good turnout, and my family is all local so the turnout is always good for me," she laughed.
Snook's early success has come as no surprise to the PSU coaching staff.
"She has a good nose for the ball, knows instinctively where it's going to go. She can get to serves, for instance, that someone else might take," said Portland State head volleyball coach Michael Seemann. "It takes pressure off our hitters. Many of our hitters are young and inexperienced and this allows them to focus on hitting."
Despite her early comfort level with the college game — Snook attributes that to her long years with the North Pacific Juniors club team — she knows there's still room for improvement in her game.
"Since I played at such a competitive club level, the pace of the game is not a huge difference," she said. "But it's different playing against some of the girls that are seniors. Sometimes, you see a play and you just go 'Wow.'
"But I definitely think I have room to improve in everything I do. The things my coach is pushing for is (to work) on my serving … and my out-of-system setting."
"Her growth potential is unlimited. She's on track right now to be one of our best ever statistically," Seeman said, adding that it will be fun to watch Snook improve because "she's always at practice with a huge smile and a great attitude. She's just a great kid."
Outside of any gains she makes as a server and setter, however, Snook's greatest love in volleyball is still her ability to dig and pass the ball.
"I like making a good play, like when someone dives for the ball, it's explosive," she said. "And, I want to impress people."
— John Wykoff of Portland State University contributed to this story
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