On a team full of youngsters and role players and only two seniors, Heather Arns is a 5-9 sophomore wing who has come out of near nowhere to lead the Vikings in almost every relevant statistical category. As the emotional sparkplug and self-described most vocal player on the team, she has the confidence of her fellow players. Due to her fantastic all around play on the court, Arns has also earned the trust and deep respect of her head coach.
"I really can’t say enough about Heather," said head coach Charity Elliott. "She just does not settle for mediocrity." The numbers don’t lie. On an inexperienced and, well, mediocre team, Arns is averaging 12.1 points, 5.3 boards and 2.7 steals, all team highs and all good enough to break the top ten in the Big Sky Conference. She is second on the team with 2.8 assists, behind only senior guard Heidi Stuart.
Arns, however, is quick to deflect compliments about her play. "I am doing everything for my team and they are doing everything for me," Arns said. Unfortunately everything and a couple extra points per contest would probably still not be sufficient help at this point for a Viking team currently sitting at 2-10, with only one home win in five chances.
Nevertheless, Arns’ hustle and consistency on the court have led Coach Elliott to reward Arns with an unofficial co-captaincy. "I want her in the inner circle to learn from Heidi and also because she deserves it," Elliot said.
However, the Vikings’ 5-9 guard/forward and captain Heidi Stuart is still the clear leader of the club. Arns agrees. "Heidi is a leader in all different aspects," she said of Stuart. "But I work hard so I can make an impact too".
With all the losing Portland State has endured this season, Arns compliments head coach Charity Elliott’s advice. "Yeah, we might be upset for a 24-hour period, but then it’s back to business," said Arns of the losses, including a school record seven-game losing streak to start the year and their current three-game slide. "But it’s the same way for the two wins we’ve had."
As the Vikings prepare for Saturday’s 2 p.m. match-up with Big Sky foe Eastern Washington, Arns is quick to point out that each team’s record is a blank slate for conference play. "I feel like we are well prepared," she said. "I expect to see a whole different attitude this week."
The Viks will need a different attitude after they faltered in Provo, Utah last week against BYU. The Cougars shot 51 percent from the floor and held PSU to 32 percent to secure a 77-50 victory. Arns shot poorly from the floor for the second game in a row and was held to only eight points, sharing the team high total with Carly Fromdahl and Marla Morin. She led the team in rebounding with five. Shooting badly doesn’t rattle Arns as she figures playing good defense will always lead to scoring opportunities. Saturday the defense was as off as the offense, and Arns failed to grab a single steal, the staple of her defensive strategy and the key to igniting Viking fastbreaks.
Early in the season frosh forward Delaney Conway claimed in a moment of youthful exuberance that the Vikings were already rebuilt. It turns out that while that appraisal may not be completely accurate, one thing is for sure. The future is now for this Viking team, and their leader is named Heather Arns.