UP volleyball takes down Montana State in home opener
In the opening match of the North Portland Marriott Invite, the Portland Pilots beat the Montana State Bobcats, 3-1, giving the Pilots a win in their home opener.
Portland won the match with 64 total kills, compared to the Bobcats’ 40 kills.
The Pilots won the first set 25-17. The Bobcats started the game with a missed serve, and the Pilots took advantage of the mistake and pushed for an early lead. Montana was never able to score more than three points higher than Portland, enabling the team to go on long scoring runs.
The Pilots made some scrappy saves and pancakes and succeeded in emergency plays when the setter was unable to get the second ball.
Senior outside hitter Reghan Pukis placed many kills into the left and right corners in the first two sets.
“The back row did a really good job of keeping things steady,” Pukis said. “It’s hard when the other team is going up and down and roller-coastering.”
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Izzy Guzik was a constant force in the front row and made supporting defensive plays. This is her first season back after knee surgery freshman year.
The Pilots outscored the Bobcats in the second set, 25-17, but they had to fight for every point. The second set started slow and Portland was not able to hold a steady lead.
“I think we needed to be taking stuff on our side of the net,” Guzik said. “We need to cool it and do what we know best and just stick to our plans.”
Passes that were made in the first set were missed in the second, and too many attacks went out wide or deep.
“They got chaotic on their side,” Pukis said. “Instead of keeping our side really steady and consistent we went and tried to match their chaos.”
Sophomore opposite hitter Liz Reich made several key plays with kills off of Bobcat blocks and the Pilots were able to gain momentum in the last 10 points to win the set.
Portland lost the third set 23-25 after Montana secured a strong lead that the Pilots couldn’t overcome.
“I think Montana State started making some nice adjustments against us and affected us in a lot of different ways,” Jeff Baxter, head coach for the Pilots, said of the lost set.
The third set started off with less momentum than the first two, with lots of the same errors and missed digs. Portland wasn’t able to come together and put together passes as well as in the first two sets.
“Volleyball is a game of ebbs and flows,” Baxter said. “There’s positives and negatives and sometimes the ball goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Portland won the final set, 25-15. The Pilots started the fourth set with a rally and won the first point. With key kills from junior middle blocker, Shayla Hoeft, the team secured a lead.
They rallied for kills and scrappy saves and won the fourth set with a burst of energy.
The Pilot’s next game in the North Portland Marriott Invite is Friday Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. against Wyoming.