Stakes were high for the Portland State volleyball team as it took the court to face the Eastern Washington University Eagles, the No. 1-ranked team in the Big Sky Conference.
Wins have been few and far between for PSU this season, and a win over such a dominant team would no doubt have given a boost to Viking morale. The Vikings came very close to pulling off the huge upset in Cheney, Wash., but lost the battle.
Earlier this season, PSU lost to the Eagles in three straight sets. This time, the Vikings didn’t go down without a fight, forcing Eastern Washington to prove itself in five close games (31-29, 30-15, 25-30, 26-30, 15-7).
In the last match-up between these teams, Eagles Monica Lynch and Janelle Ruen paced their team’s offense with 15 and 11 kills apiece. Ruen continued to give the Vikings trouble on Friday, posting 21 kills and 22 digs for the night. Lynch was once again effective with 18 kills, while teammate Keva Sorensan added 11 more. Andrea Verdoljak was pivotal defensively with 23 digs, and Jaime Wright helped out with an impressive 66 assists.
Sophomore Rachel Mogan stepped up for the Vikings, turning in a season-high 12 kills. Richell Wilson added nine kills and 14 digs to the team effort. Stephanie Lavigne also played well for the Viks, with four digs and 37 assists. Lisa Thomas turned in a season-high eight blocks.
The Eagles are currently on a 14-game winning streak, adding this win over the Vikings to other recent victories over Gonzaga, Montana and Montana State. The win also marked the team’s 14th straight victory over PSU.
The Vikings are now 2-8 in the Big Sky Conference. Next up, they will travel to Ogden, Utah, for a game against the Weber State Wildcats on Thursday night. PSU will be looking to avenge their last match-up with the Wildcats, a 3-1 loss to the team at the Peter Stott Center in October.
The Vikings have struggled at home this season, with an unimpressive 3-4 record at the newly renovated Stott Center. Home games are considered an important factor in any team’s success, allowing them to compete in familiar surroundings in front of supportive fans while avoiding the hassles involved in travel.
“It’s not an excuse, but the renovation has put us in a situation where we don’t have a real sense of being ‘at home’ anymore,” explained head coach Jeff Mozzochi. “It may sound like a small thing, but a real feel for the court and familiar surroundings – the things hanging on the walls, the proximity of the fans – are all important things in this sport in particular. We’re still getting a feel for it all, but in the long run it’s going to be fantastic.”