Spiked dreams

Just six years ago, the Portland State volleyball team limped to a 0-25 mark and was the laughing stock of the Big Sky Conference.

Just six years ago, the Portland State volleyball team limped to a 0-25 mark and was the laughing stock of the Big Sky Conference. After the Vikings’ best Division I season in 2006, compiling a 21-7 overall record and 14-2 conference mark, Portland State has established itself as a formidable force and nobody is laughing any longer.

“Our conference record was absolutely tremendous, and we were undefeated at home for the second consecutive season,” head coach Jeff Mozzochi said. “The success we have had is really an indication of how far the program has come as far as being a highly competitive program, which we once were a long time back.”

For the second consecutive season, the Vikings finished just behind both regular-season and conference-tournament champion Sacramento State for the Big Sky Conference crown. Portland State entered the 2006 Big Sky volleyball championship seeded second, but history repeated itself again as Eastern Washington eliminated the Viks from postseason play for the third straight season.

“I am sure everyone would have loved to win a Big Sky championship, but that is about the only thing we didn’t accomplish this year,” Mozzochi said.

After the Eagles bounced Portland State from the conference tournament, the Vikings still had a sliver of a chance to advance to the NCAA tournament, according to Mozzochi. The squad’s fortunes would be determined at the Banker’s Classic in Stockton, Calif.

In the end, the Vikings failed to realize their tournament dreams, but the performance at the Banker’s Classic was one for the ages. Portland State claimed the tournament crown, defeating a tough San Francisco team in the championship match, as senior outside hitter Jessica Brodie put on a clinic in the five-game win. Brodie, a 5-foot-6 native of Puyallup, Wash., collected 36 kills and 24 digs, surpassing Mani Yamaguchi’s school record of 35 kills established in 1994.

“The last match of the season against San Francisco was unbelievable–a five-game match and being down 14-8 to win the fifth game,” Mozzochi said. “Jessica Brodie had an amazing match for us.”

As a team, the Vikings were unsuccessful in their pursuit of a championship, but multiple individuals were awarded with hardware at season’s end.

Brodie was honored as the Big Sky Conference Most Valuable Player and named to collegevolleyballupdate.com’s 2006 Stellar Spiker second team after averaging a Viking all-time best of 5.43 kills per game. Compiling 3.46 kills per contest and a .273 hitting percentage, senior outside hitter Jessica Frederick earned all-conference and Big Sky all-tournament honors. Setter Dominique Fradella was the first Viking ever named Big Sky Outstanding Freshman, leading the conference with 13.76 assists per game.

With four seniors graduating, including Brodie, Frederick, libero Sarah Sirianni and middle blocker Ashley Hoogland, Mozzochi said he realizes he is losing some great talent, but that he believes his young players will step up next year.

“I really think the returning players got some confidence from that final match at the Banker’s Classic,” Mozzochi said. “We had a terrific off-season and the young players worked extremely hard. They’re really excited for next season.”