Women’s basketball heads north for showdown��with Washington

Sunday marks the official start of the Portland State women’s basketball season as the Vikings travel to take on the Washington Huskies.

Sunday marks the official start of the Portland State women’s basketball season as the Vikings travel to take on the Washington Huskies.

After spending the last few weeks fine-tuning their gameplay, the Viks are ready to make a run at another winning season and championship title.

The meeting with Washington is a non-conference game, but still one that is important for building confidence in a Viking team that is coming off of its first-ever Big Sky Championship title and appearance in the NCAA Division-I Tournament.

Last season, the Vikings handed the Huskies a surprising last-second loss, 67-66, at the Stott Center thanks to a buzzer-beating jumper from then-junior forward Kelli Valentine.

The game stayed close throughout, and PSU went into the locker room trailing by two points at the half. The Vikings came out of the break with vigor and outscored the Huskies 36-33 in the second half, including 11 of the last 13 points of the game.

This year, the Vikings are looking to build on that win with another victory over Washington, this time on the Huskies’ court.

The University of Washington is coming off of a mediocre season but is welcoming back much of its starting core. The Huskies lost leading scorer Sami Whitcomb, but the other four starters are returning this season. They will likely face the challenge of getting their bench to play well together though, since four new players have been added to the roster. 

To take home a win, the Vikings will have to keep several Huskies in check. Junior guard Kristi Kingma and sophomore Regina Rogers both averaged nearly 10 points per game last season, and will likely be looking to improve their stats.

PSU is coming off of a 94-83 victory over Western Oregon in an exhibition match two weeks ago. According to head coach Sherri Murrell, the Vikings have used the time to focus on improving their team cohesion and their defensive scheme.

“We are what we emphasize,” Murrell said. “We are getting a new offense instilled and are working on running the court, but putting our defense together with our offense is important.”

Two starters were lost from last year’s team, including All-Conference guard Claire Faucher, who was a key part of PSU’s success.

Other players have stepped up for Portland State going into this season, and now coach Murrell is thinking there could be different combinations of starting players for any of their games.

“We have so much depth on this roster that I may have a different starting five on any different night,” Murrell said. “In the past, we have always had a set starting five and now we may have a different group starting this weekend from our game against Western Oregon.”

This seems to be a problem that any coach would like to have and will likely be the key to the Viks’ hopes at taking a regular season title for the first time.

Key returners for the Vikings include seniors Valentine, Lexi Bishop and Kelly Marchant, as well as juniors Eryn Jones and Katy Wade.

Jones and Marchant will be ones to watch this year, as they look to move up through the school’s career record books for three-point shooting. Currently, Jones ranks fourth and Marchant sits at eighth place.

The Vikings seem to have an advantage against Washington going into this game, with four seniors on the roster and a very balanced squad. When asked about nerves going into this season, Murrell was not concerned about expectations.

“We are focused on winning the day,” Murrell said. “We are going to take each day one step at a time and focus on winning the next game on our schedule.”

First tip-off is set for 2 p.m. Sunday. Audio and live stats will be available at goviks.com. ?