Vikings cracked by Eagles

    For the second consecutive match the Portland State volleyball team failed to play up to their potential, leading to a four-game beating by Big Sky Conference foe Eastern Washington on Saturday in Cheney, Washington. With the loss, the Vikings retain second place in the Big Sky standings, but their record drops to 13-6 overall and 8-2 against conference foes.  

    When the Vikings played a less-than-stellar match against Weber State last Thursday, panic did not ensue. Head coach Jeff Mozzochi and his team kept their composure and refrained from panicking because Weber State is last in the Big Sky standings and the Viks were still in position to escape with a three-game sweep over the Wildcats. The circumstances were quite different in their match against Eastern Washington on Saturday. 

    Unlike Weber State, Eastern Washington in recent years has been a perennial contender for the Big Sky Championship. So, when the Vikings set foot in the Eagles’ Reese Court they realized that the slightest slip may mean their second conference loss of the season.

    Unfortunately for the Vikings, their miscues began early and often in the first game of the match. Behind an ungodly .464 hitting percentage, Eastern Washington took command before the Viks could even blink. The Eagles jumped out to a 13-point lead with the score at 25-12. As the Viks tried to rally and close the gap the Eagles showed no mercy, scoring their final five points and closing the book on game one.

    ”During the first game we played pretty much the same way we did against Weber State on Thursday. The difference was that Eastern Washington is just a much better team, and we knew that going into the match,” said Mozzochi. “We talked to the team towards the end of game one about waking up and gaining some momentum”

    The pep talk that Mozzochi and his staff had with the team appeared to be pretty effective as the Viks looked like a different squad in game two. During the second game, both Portland State’s offensive and defensive effort was much improved. They accumulated their best hitting percentage of the night at .167, while with a strong defensive presence at the net they held the Eagles to their lowest mark of the night at .068. The Vikings’ improved play led to their only win of the night as they narrowly defeated the Eagles 28-30.

    ”We were able to get some momentum started in the second game. We came out and played pretty decently,” said Mozzochi. “During game two we actually had a fairly good lead, then we let them back into it a little but, but we ended up finishing the game well.”

    Whatever momentum the Vikings developed in game two was quickly stolen by the Eagles at the outset of the third game. The .108 hitting percentage and eight errors in game three were evidence that the Vikings’ offense was once again misfiring regularly. Just like the offense, the Vikings’ defense had returned to its game-one form, allowing the Eagles to successfully slam 21 kills through the Portland State defense. The Eagles coasted to a lopsided 19-30 game-three victory and concluded their onslaught on a Viking squad playing out of character in the fourth and final game to the tune of 25-30.

“They beat us in every single statistical category,” said Mozzochi. “We felt like Thursday night against Weber State we were flat. We knew going up to play Eastern Washington that if we played the same way as we did against Weber State we were going to be in trouble, and that is what happened.”

Though the Viks struggled against the Eagles, there were a couple of bright spots that shined through the heavy haze of the loss. Junior middle blocker Michelle Robertson enjoyed an unusually successful night on offense with 10 kills along with senior outside hitter Jessica Frederick who had nine kills and a team-high .234 hitting percentage.

Senior outside hitter Jessica Brodie had another great all-around performance as she led the team with 17 kills, 18 digs and four aces from the service line. With her four aces Brodie’s total is now 164 career aces, moving the senior into fifth place in Vikings history and edging closer to NCAA Division II All-American Leanne Peters for fourth place.

After a hectic schedule that forced them to travel to Montana and Washington the past few weeks, the Vikings will have ten days to recoup. The time off is new to the Vikings and the rest of the Big Sky, but with the addition of Northern Colorado to the conference each team now has a bye week where they are exempt from competition. On the other side of Portland State’s midseason break is the most feared team in the Big Sky, defending champion Sacramento State, who visit the Stott Center on Thursday, Oct. 26.

“If we use the break the right way, if we get ourselves determined to improve, I think that having the break before Sacramento State could be terrific. But, if we continue to do things like we did last week, it will not help us at all,” said Mozzochi.