Does anyone know that Portland State’s volleyball team is exceptionally talented? If not, wake up and recognize that this team is not a sleeper. At 10-5 the Vikings have a feasible chance to win the Big Sky Conference championship. Their campaign will intensify with their upcoming games when the Viks kick off their home opener tonight.
PSU will match-up with defending Big Sky champion Sacramento State in the first game of their home stand. The Hornets own a 2-0 conference record and stand alone at the top of the standings with an overall record of 10-6.
On Saturday, Oct. 1, Portland State will play a substantially less proven and respected squad in Northern Arizona. Coincidentally the Lumberjacks possess the worst record in the conference with a mark of 2-9. The festivities for both games will begin at 7 p.m.
“It will be a long game on Friday,” junior outside hitter Jessica Brodie said.
Currently only two conference games have been played this season by PSU, losses on the road to Idaho State and Weber State last weekend, heightening the importance of the upcoming games.
Head coach Jeff Mozzochi has 13 years at the helm of volleyball operations at Portland State, serving his first stint from 1984-1992. During this time period Mozzochi had immediate success leading the Vikings to back-to-back championships in 1984 and 1985. Mozzochi tasted sweet success again in 1992, victorious in the national championship match, becoming a three time national champion at Portland State.
He returned in 2001 to serve his second stint, which has proven to be a challenging task. Mozzochi has PSU advancing in the correct direction, progressively increasing the number of playoff appearances and improving the record.
With his extensive experience in the Big Sky Conference coach Mozzochi knows about the tendencies and trends of the conference as a whole.
“The Big Sky Conference has improved from the bottom up, meaning teams that are generally at the bottom are getting better and competing for top positions,” Mozzochi said. “This makes it a very exciting season. The balance of the conference is makes it very competitive.”
Coach Mozzochi knows that the balance of the conference is a positive as a whole but if he wants to continue in contention for a conference title his team needs to take care of business in their upcoming games.
“Both teams are very talented,” Mozzochi said. “Sacramento State is one of the top teams in the Big Sky and are certainly the more challenging match-up for us this weekend.”
Senior Stephanie Lavigne is in her fifth year because of an injury that caused her to redshirt last season. She has the most experience on the team and is unquestionably the emotional leader of the squad. Stephanie has been a part of the transformation of volleyball at Portland State, watching the process unfold over the last five years.
“We go to the gym and work hard everyday because we want to win,” Lavigne said when asked about the team’s early season success. “This team has sheer ability. We have always had athletic teams but year after year we become more and more skilled.”
Lavigne, Brodie and coach Mozzochi all agreed on one word that personifies the late but not great heroics recently: inconsistency. Inconsistency means losing the first two games of a match and then rallying to be victorious in the next two only to lose the deciding fifth game. This has occurred on three occasions already this season.
“We start really slow. It usually takes us two games to realize that we are going to lose the match,” Brodie said. “Then we wake up and play like we want to win.”
Yet Brodie remains optimistic about the rest of this young season.
“Our greatest strength is the weapons that we have,” Brodie said. “If we get everyone playing well together, all at once, then we can be unstoppable. We just need to put all of the pieces to the puzzle together.”