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West Linn native owns Vikings' record for digs, helps lead PSU team that is contending for the Big Sky Conference title.

COURTESY PHOTO: SCOTT LARSON/PSU ATHLETICS - West Linn native Ellie Snook recently established a new Portland State volleyball digs record. Her play and leadership have helped the Vikings to the top of the Big Sky Conference standings.It's nice when a plan comes together, as it did for the Snook family of West Linn on Oct. 1.

Dina and Jamie Snook were in the stands at Northern Arizona when their daughter, Ellie, climbed to the top of the Portland State volleyball record books for career digs. They had chosen to make the trip to Flagstaff well ahead of time, and there was no certainty that Ellie's record-setting dig would come that day.

"We had no idea it was going to end up working out that way. But they got to be there, so that was good," Ellie Snook said.

Dig 1,852 — passing Kasimira Clark (2011-14) for the program record — came at a critical point in the fifth set of the Vikings' first win at Flagstaff, Arizona, since 2011.

That serendipity was just one example of how things have fallen into place for this Viking volleyball team, which takes a Big Sky Conference leading 7-1 record into a 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, match against second-place Sacramento State — the first of three matches in a row at Viking Pavilion. Northern Arizona visits at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, and fourth-place Northern Colorado at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29. All Big Sky contests are live streamed by ESPN+.

The combination of veterans such as Snook and senior outside hitters Parker Webb and Makayla Lewis, each all-conference last season, with key newcomers such as setter Madison Friebel and outside hitter Sophia Meyers, has turned Portland State into a legit contender for the Big Sky title.

COURTESY PHOTO: SCOTT LARSON/PSU ATHLETICS - Sixth-year Viking Parker Webb has helped elevate the Portland State attack.Webb, a Yakima, Washington, native in her sixth season with the Vikings, is helping lead an attack that has found a new level this season. Meyers, who transfered this year from Montana, and Lewis (the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year in 2021 after arriving from San Jose State) each average more than three kills per set and Webb is just off that pace. All three rank among the Big Sky's top 10 in kills per set in conference play.

Both Snook and coach Michael Seemann point to the steady play of Friebel, who has twice been named Big Sky Offensive Player of the Week, as a key to the Vikings' surge. Friebel, a Redding, California, native who played her first two seasons at Butler University in Indianapolis, is averaging 8.41 assists per set.

"Ultimately, it's the attacking that I think I'm most pleased with," said Seemann, in his 16th season as the Vikings' head coach. "That's been something that I don't think we've ever been truly that dominant in. In the past we've been defensively dominant, but now we're having a lot of success on the offensive side of things."

COURTESY PHOTO: SCOTT LARSON/PSU ATHLETICS - A transfer from Montana, Sophia Meyers has helped Portland State become one of the most consistent hitting teams in the Big Sky Conference.As her digs record shows, Snook has been a big contributor to PSU's solid defense since joining the Vikings in 2019 — after twice being named first-team all-state at West Linn High. She started playing volleyball, a sport her mom played at Pepperdine and at Linfield, recreationally in second grade. On schedule to earn her business degree in the spring, volleyball remains Snook's passion.

"I've pretty much never felt burnt out from volleyball. I could stay in the gym all day, every day. I literally love it," she said. "But now what's keeping me going is I know we have the chance to potentially win a conference championship and go to the NCAA tournament, which are obviously all things that you dream of when you're playing college volleyball."

The Big Sky's NCAA Tournament automatic bid will be determined by the conference tournament, to be played Nov. 23, 25 and 26 at Weber State. PSU won has given Weber State both of its conference losses, including sweeping the Wildcats on Oct. 15 to jump to the top of the standings. It was the Viks' fifth win in a row and third consecutive 3-0 triumph.

Because COVID-19 gave college athletes an extra year of eligibility, Snook could stick around for one more season of college volleyball. She hasn't made that decision, yet, focusing instead on this season's ride.

Always a smaller player — Snook is listed at 5-foot-7 in a sport ruled by tall, explosive jumpers — defense became her specialty early on. As a fourth grader, she played up a couple of years with a U12 age team. For one season of youth club volleyball, she played in the setter's role.

That experience still comes in handy. Snook acts as a secondary setter when the team is in scramble mode.

COURTESY PHOTO: SCOTT LARSON/PSU ATHLETICS - Makayla Lewis is one of three Viking hitters among the top 10 in the Big Sky for kills per set in conference play.Snook's enthusiastic voice is a big one in her fourth college season.

"Having that trust of my teammates and being able to, whether we're winning or losing, pull us together on the court, talk about what we need to keep doing or what we need to do better — I think I've taken that role on a lot more," she said.

When she's not helping lead the Vikings on the court, Snook often returns home to hang with family, including 18-month-old brother, Jackson.

Snook's family ties to Portland State include her father. Jamie Snook played basketball for the Vikings (1996-99). She has two cousins on the Portland State football team, senior defensive lineman Jake Porter and freshman offensive lineman Braylon Cornell. Her younger sister, Lily, was at PSU but this year transferred to Corban University in Salem rather than wait for her turn to play the libero position Ellie has owned since arriving at Portland State.

Snook established her defensive credentials quickly at PSU. Her 5.47 digs per set in 2019 led all freshmen in the nation. She's also been a leader on the service line, a part of the game Seemann emphasizes. Her 50 aces (in 119 sets) last season were a program record. She has 24 aces through 70 sets this season.

"I feel like I'm definitely dialing it in and every time I go back there to serve, it's my goal to stay back there for more than one point," Snook said.

As for her digs record, it's 1,909 and counting entering the Oct. 22 match with Sacramento State. Not that Ellie Snook is counting.

"With the dig record, I don't really keep track of those things in my head," Snook said with a laugh. "A win is more important than any individual accolade I could get."COURTESY PHOTO: SCOTT LARSON/PSU ATHLETICS - Ellie Snook and the Portland State volleyball team are carrying a lot of momentum into the back half of their Big Sky Conference schedule.

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