Viking volleyball can hold its head high

Nine years. That’s how long it took for Viking volleyball to post a winning season since joining Division 1 athletics. Nine whole years.

But it’s over now. And not only have the Viks (3-11 BSC, 14-13 overall) claimed their first winning season since Bill Clinton was president, they earned a berth in the Big Sky Tournament for the second year in a row.

Portland State split its matches at home over the weekend, sweeping the University of Montana Grizzlies on Thursday night, then losing to the Montana State Bobcats on Saturday 3-2. The contests were the last of the regular season.

PSU delivered one of its more convincing performances of the year against the Grizzlies. The Viks posted a .291 hitting percentage with 49 kills and 10 service aces in the three-game win (30-22, 30-19 and 30-28).

The Vikings held the Grizzlies to a .103 hitting percentage with 33 kills and five service aces. PSU also beat Montana in set assists 43-30, and recorded four less errors. The teams were about even in total attacks, with PSU recording 110 to Montana’s 107.

On the defensive side of things, the teams were pretty even, too. The Vikings recorded five more defensive digs than the Grizzlies and two less team blocks.

Richell Wilson and Sarah Leenders led the Viks on offense. Wilson had a double-double with 16 kills and 10 digs, and also recorded a .371 hitting percentage. Leenders also had a double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs. She recorded a .316 hitting percentage.

On Saturday, the story was decidedly different. The match against the Montana State Bobcats saw both career and season records set. The Vikings lose in a gritty five-game contest (30-32, 25-30, 30-26, 30-28 and 12-15).

The Viks recorded 86 kills on 217 attacks and a .212 hitting percentage, and also had 14 service aces. In comparison, the Bobcats had 74 kills on 178 attacks and a .303 hitting percentage. Montana State had only two service aces.

The real difference was in errors. The Vikings recorded 58 to the Bobcats’ 30. Another glaring disparity was in total team blocks. Montana State had a whopping 22, making PSU’s 12 seem weak in comparison. Montana State had 36 block assists to PSU’s 16.

Wilson led the Viks on offense again. She had another double-double, the 26th in her college career, with a season-high 28 kills, a .227 hitting percentage and 13 defensive digs. It was her 16th career 20-plus kill match. Jessica Vanzant had 20 kills for the first time in her career, and also a .293 hitting percentage, four service aces, digs and block-assists.

Next up for the Vikings is the Big Sky Tournament, beginning this Thursday in Cheney, Wash., at Eastern Washington University. Portland State will open the tournament against Idaho State at 6 p.m.