Coming off an 0-25 season last year, the Vikings women’s volleyball team strives to rebound into playoff contention with returning head coach Jeff Mozzochi.
“The last two years have been a struggle for the team,” Mozzochi said. One of the reasons was the lack of experienced players.
“It was a very young team last year,” Mozzochi said. “They had no seniors – two juniors. I think that was a very difficult season.”
Mozzochi coached the women’s team from 1984-92 and during that time had success at the Division II level. He now will take on the task of rebuilding the Division I program and instilling confidence back into the players.
“They’ve had a couple years of frustration, I think, for some of the older players, but that’s behind them,” he said. “The players really committed themselves to a new work ethic and a new attitude and so far, this early part of the season, it’s paying some dividends for them.”
Because Mozzochi hasn’t coached Portland State volleyball in almost 10 years, he feels he isn’t very familiar with the new players and they, as well, aren’t very familiar with him. But that is something that both coach and players are working on.
“It’s really a learning experience for all of us to see … how I respond, how they respond, etcetera,” he said. “So it’s kind of fun in that sense. We’ll learn something new every time we go out on the floor about ourselves as a team.”
This year’s team is barely older than last year’s team. The Vikings will take on their opponents with 14 players – 10 are returnees, of which only two are seniors.
As for the team’s two seniors, middle blocker Nicole Geils and setter Katie Kaysinger, Mozzochi said they have brought leadership and experience to the team.
“They’ve done a really nice job … of taking some leadership, taking some responsibility, adjusting to the new demands of a new coaching staff and the increased intensity level,” Mozzochi said. “They want to work hard and they want to do well. They’re not just putting in they’re time, they want to have a successful senior season.”
Although the leadership the seniors bring will be no doubt helpful for the team, in Mozzochi’s eyes, there are no real standouts on the squad.
“If we’re successful, it’s going to be because everybody is contributing,” Mozzochi said. “We don’t have a superstar … we don’t have one player that we’re going to go to every night that’s going to carry us. We have to do this as a group and that’s the mentality that we (coaching staff) try to instill in them.”
Mozzochi is very excited about the incoming freshmen. Though they are not quite ready to compete at the college level, he said they will be a great asset in the years to come.
“The young players in the program are very talented,” he said. “Athletically, they are very gifted. In the future, they’re going to be a big factor in this program.”
The Big Sky Conference houses some tough teams this season, but Mozzochi remains optimistic. One of the team’s goals this year is to win against some of its more powerful opponents.
“We still have to prove to ourselves and everybody else that we can win and not just compete with those teams, but beat some of them,” Mozzochi said. “We’re taking small steps in that direction.”The future looks bright for the Vikings, but they are intent on the season at hand.
“We’re very happy with the first two weeks,” Mozzochi said. “We’re moving in the right direction. The obvious goal is to get to the conference tournament at the end.”