Raising Hell – From the desk of Nathan Hellman

As long as I’ve been a student at Portland State, the soccer team has always been an afterthought.

As long as I’ve been a student at Portland State, the soccer team has always been an afterthought.

None of the happenings on the soccer pitch have appeared overly appealing. The team has struggled to reach the five-win plateau the past two seasons. And it’s been consistently overshadowed by an attention-hogging football squad and a volleyball team that’s vied for a Big Sky title two consecutive seasons.

Since claiming the Big Sky crown in 2004, Portland State soccer has been the neglected stepchild of fall sports, tucked away behind the allure of collegiate-level football and success of a star-studded volleyball team.

Well, the time has come for a Cinderella makeover for soccer in the South Park Blocks.

Sitting at 3-3 after six matches, the Vikings haven’t been dominant by any stretch of the imagination this season-Idaho State and the University of Texas El Paso blanked them. But Portland State has yet to succumb to a tradition blemished by losing campaigns.

Essentially, the Vikings have yet to become the Vikings. And that’s a positive start in this instance.

Third-year head coach Tim Bennett, who is at the forefront of this success, is beginning to realize the transformation.

“We are really becoming an exciting team,” Bennett said.

That’s the truth: The Vikings are becoming an exciting team. And it’s actually counterintuitive that Portland State is turning it around now, considering the team only starts two upperclassmen-senior defender Juli Edwards and junior defender Laura Ellison-and is at a severe disadvantage every time it steps onto the pitch.

Bennett explained how due to inadequate financial distribution, Portland State only plays with eight scholarship players, while every opponent has 14 scholarship athletes roaming the field-a six player difference and significant disparity in terms of talent. It has become more difficult recently, when the NCAA made a ruling to increase the maximum number of soccer scholarships from 12 to 14 in 2005.

Even in the Big Sky, the six other squads are equipped with 14 scholarship players, which sheds some light on the Vikings’ inability to edge out victories over the last few years.

But the mystery still looms on how the Vikings have already won three matches this season, when a year ago the team was victorious a total of four times.

But forget about financial distribution and NCAA regulations regarding scholarships, because the current Vikings aren’t letting misfortunes consume them. They’re solely worried about winning, and doing it N.O.W.

According to Bennett, the team has acquired a new motto entitled N.O.W., which stands for “never out worked.” Inspired by their head coach’s disciplined approach and tendency to be difficult to satisfy, the Vikings are working harder than ever to improve on past disappointments.

At practices, no player stands around with her hands on her hips watching, or is positioned in circles with others chatting away. Instead, every single member of the team exudes the utmost focus, actively participating in drills, and doing it at full speed.

That’s part of the mentality to never be out worked, and it’s working quite well for the Vikings thus far, despite the shortcomings.

“We play best when our backs are against the wall,” Bennett said.

Which is definitely a blessing for the Vikings, because with less recruited talent then every other opponent, their backs will always be against the wall.