It is now official, after weeks of skepticism and patience. It is now safe to say the Vikings are legitimate. Saturday they overcame another hurdle by defeating Eastern Washington in only three games, beating the Eagles for the first time since 1985. The Viks took the match in straight games, 30-26, 30-26 and 30-21.
This was a huge win, as the two teams were deadlocked at second place. Prior to the initial serve each team possessed a 4-2 Big Sky Conference record and the Vikings owned a better overall mark by mere percentage points. Currently, the Vikings are alone in second place, trailing only Sacramento State for the conference lead.
With five straight victories, each occurring in conference play, the Vikings are on a roll to say the least. A winning streak of five matches is not long, yet the manner in which these matches have been won is the reason that it is an exceptional streak. Portland State has defeated Sacramento State, swept the Montana schools in Montana and beat the Eagles in just three games. Another impressive streak that the Viks have accumulated this season is a perfect record in three-game matches, winning their 10th on Saturday.
“This was a big win,” head coach Jeff Mozzochi said. “Like I said, though winning the regular season title would be fantastic, our focus is to get to the tournament first.”
Senior setter Stephanie Lavigne said, “It was a really big win. Our team played very well together. It is a great feeling to come out and beat Eastern Washington and Sacramento State; we have never done this before.”
The Vikings did a superb job of using their strengths to their advantage in this match, utilizing the leadership skills of junior outside hitter Jessica Vanzant and Lavigne.
“This team is more mature than past teams,” Mozzochi said. “There are more than just a couple of key players contributing. Stephanie and Vanzant know exactly what they are supposed to do on the court. Especially Stephanie, she doesn’t even need to ask me what would be the best way of executing our game plan. She just does it.”
Notables for the game include Vanzant’s 16 kills and an overall hitting percentage of .500, Jessica Brodie’s 11 digs and Lavigne’s game-high 33 assists.
Even after winning four straight games and completing their first Big Sky Conference road sweep over Montana and Montana State, Mozzochi still wasn’t complacent with the team. He felt that they were playing well, however it was premature to focus on winning the conference. His senior leader and setter Lavigne shared his sentiment.
“This is a big win and we have been playing well lately but we still have some things to focus on,” Lavinge said. “Each week is a new challenge to prepare for, every team poses a challenge for us. We need to come back to the gym each day and pay attention to the details.”
Seven games remain on the Viking’s schedule before the Big Sky Conference tournament. This will definitely be a defining stretch for a team that is on the brink of greatness. Some noteworthy matches include Sacramento State, Oregon and Eastern Washington, all teams that the Viks have beaten this season. However each game will be played away from the friendly confines of the Stott Center.
On Thursday, Oct. 20, the Vikings face off against Weber State at the Stott Center at 7 p.m. Portland State suffered their last loss against the Wildcats on Sept. 24 in a five game match that saw the Vikings win the first two games before dropping the final three games.
“This is our chance to get some revenge against Weber State. Now we are at home and have the advantage,” freshman outside hitter Jacqueline Thomas said.