With a pair of decisive wins this weekend against conference rivals Montana and Eastern Washington, the Vikings seem to be proving that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. After a dreadful nonconference season in which their opponents outscored the Vikings (4-9-3, 3-0-1) 26-7, the team carried an auspicious conference record of 1-0-1 into Friday’s match against Montana (5-9-1, 2-2 BSC).
With a pair of decisive wins this weekend against conference rivals Montana and Eastern Washington, the Vikings seem to be proving that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself.
After a dreadful nonconference season in which their opponents outscored the Vikings (4-9-3, 3-0-1) 26-7, the team carried an auspicious conference record of 1-0-1 into Friday’s match against Montana (5-9-1, 2-2 BSC).
The Vikings recognized that their ability to score, which had eluded them for many of their earlier games, would be the key to victory.
After their second weekend of Big Sky play is over, the Vikings have outhustled, outshot and outscored their opponents in four games, eight to three.
“We are starting to find a groove on offense,” said head coach Laura Schott.
In the 59th minute of Friday’s game against the Grizzlies, the Vikings’ offense finally came together when junior forward Kat Robertson connected on a tap pass from freshman forward Kala Renard and sent the ball past the Grizzlies goalie into the far corner of the net.
Renard was not done setting up her teammates though, as mere minutes later she found sophomore midfielder Frankie Ross at the top of the box, for her first goal of the season.
The Grizzlies were able to sneak one past junior goalkeeper Cris Lewis in the final stages of the game, but the Vikings hung on for a 2-1 victory.
If the game against Montana was an outburst for the usually quiet Vikings offense, then Sunday’s game against Eastern Washington (2-10-3, 0-2-1 BSC) could be considered an explosion.
The Vikings played some of their finest soccer of the season as the offense combined for a season-high total of four goals en route to an authoritative victory.
The game was put out of reach early with Portland State managing two goals in the opening 10 minutes of the game. Fifteen minutes into the second half, Kat Robertson hammered a shot on goal that would prove too much for the Eagles’ goalkeeper, bouncing off her hands and into the net. That score increased the Vikings’ lead to 3-0.
Eastern Washington did manage to convert on a corner kick in the 68th minute of action, but the game was again put out of reach on a goal by junior midfielder Nathalie Wollmann, off a cross by junior midfielder Dolly Enneking in the final two minutes of play.
For a team that once seemed to be destined for a difficult rebuilding season under the first year of Schott’s regime, a first-place finish in the Big Sky Conference is not out of reach.
Following their 1-0 shutout loss to Fresno State on Oct. 5, which dropped their record to a dismal 1-9-2, Schott took a sober look at the state of her team.
According to her, the problem was not a matter of talent, but of mentality.
“Right now, we’re fighting against an attitude of being scared to lose,” Schott said following that game on Oct. 5. “We are not playing to win.”
Since that game, which represented the final nonconference match of the season, the story for the Vikings has been one of redemption.
They are undefeated in Big Sky Conference action, and now when Schott contemplates the team’s outlook on each game, she sees nothing but progress.
“We are really coming out of that fear of losing,” Schott said. “We are starting to go at teams, to attack, and the results have been great.”
Roaring into conference play with a newfound fighting attitude, the Vikings have amassed three wins and a tie, vaulting them to sole ownership of first place among the eight conference teams battling for entry into the postseason tournament.
With an undefeated record heading into their final three games, the Vikings have already given themselves the best start to conference play in the school’s history. Not bad for a team that once seemed scared to lose. The Vikings continue their push toward the Big Sky Tournament on Thursday, when they travel to Ogden, Utah to face a talented Weber State team.