2016 Volleyball Preview

By Sal Aversa | September 2, 2016 11:33am

by Kayli Gribi / The Beacon

Coming off their most successful season in program history, the Portland Pilots volleyball team will be challenged to fill their own big shoes. The team opened the 2016-2017 campaign last week and got their first taste of how their roster will play out with three new players and without two of last season’s leaders.

Last season was a long time coming. In 2013, the Pilots finished their season without a single win. After hiring head coach Brent Crouch, who is now in his third year, Portland improved their win total every season, the peak of which came at the beginning of the 2015-16 season. During that run, the women lost only two matches out of their first twelve and posted a 10-game winning streak.

Portland finished the season with an overall record of 16-15, which was their first winning season since 1989.

Senior Brittney Markwith said that the team’s goal is to “be better than you were yesterday.”

But if “yesterday” is not just the last time the team practiced, but is a metaphor for last season as a whole, Portland has some obstacles to overcome and adjustments to make.

Last year, the Pilots had now-graduated senior Emily Liger and then junior Makayla Lindburg on their side of the net. Lindburg transferred after the season to Eastern Oregon University. Without them, Portland will have to fill the void they left in scoring.

“From a volleyball perspective you lose that production,” Crouch said. “(Liger) got a lot of kills. She was our kill leader last year, so the question this year is ‘where are we going to replace those kills?’”

A potential advantage of losing their kill leader is that there is now an opportunity for powerhouses like junior outside hitter Hannah Troutman, who transferred from OSU last season, and could leave opponents guessing on the attack.

“The kills are getting spread out a little more which is a good thing,” Crouch said. “It’s harder to predict what we’re doing.”

It also leaves room for newcomers to earn a spot in the starting lineup.

There are three freshmen on the team: outside hitter Izzy Guzik, libero Emma Scanlan, setter Cali Thompson. Outside hitter Reghan Pukis is a transfer from UNLV.

Despite the roster shuffle, Crouch said that he feels confident in the players he has.

“My expectation is that we’re competing with everyone we play against. That’s where we are now as a program,” Crouch said. “There is nobody that we play that we cannot beat. Are we going to beat every single team? No. But we’re going to compete with every team. We are significantly better than we were last year.”

The Pilots went 2-1 in a tournament in Corvallis, Oregon, last weekend, beating both Oregon State and Utah State. The team will play two games in Fresno against DePaul at 12:30 p.m. and Portland State at 5 p.m. on Sept. 2 and will face off against Fresno State on Sept. 3 at 12:30.

They will play in the Chiles Center for the first time on Sept. 9 for the North Harbour Marriott Challenge against CSU Bakersfield and attempt to defend their invitational title.