The beginning of the football season set fans up with high expectations. If it had not, then 8-3 would have seemed a very successful season.
The Vikings, though, hit some rocks on the way to the end of their season after starting off brilliantly. Portland State won their first six games of the year and earned increasingly high rankings in the Division I-AA polls before dropping three of their last five regular season games and losing in the first round of the playoffs to Delaware.
During the first half of the season, the Viking offense was putting up some gaudy numbers on the strength of quarterback Jimmy Blanchard’s arm and the running ability of PSU male team sport Athlete of the Year Charles Dunn. The offense averaged 35.6 points, 247.8 passing yards, and 185.5 rushing yards per game.
Though the season ended roughly, the Vikings still finished 8-3. Blanchard threw for 2,660 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season and was selected first team All-Big Sky Conference. The Jacksonville Jaguars were impressed and agreed to terms with Blanchard even after he went undrafted.
PSU cornerback Rashad Floyd has also gone on to professional ball, signing a one-year deal with the Hamilton Tiger-cats of the Canadian Football League.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams made it as far as the NCAA West Regionals in 2000. The men’s team finished 21st while the women’s team placed 17th in Fresno, Calif. The Viking men placed last out of nine teams at the Big Sky Championships, while the women came in seventh.
The women were led by Melissa Telford, the PSU female Scholar-Athlete of the Year who herself finished in 80th place out of 192 runners. Brian Orth paced the men, finishing 105th.
The PSU volleyball team managed to go their entire season without a victory. At the conclusion of the turmoil, coach Chris Stanley resigned and former PSU coach Chris Mozzochi was hired to restore the program to its former glory. The Vikings finished 0-25, and 0-16 in the Big Sky Conference – the worst season PSU volleyball has ever had.
Stanley coached the Vikings for six years, winning a total of 57 games. In 1995, Stanley coached the Vikings to the Pacific West Conference championship in 1995 before the team moved up to Division I.
The PSU women’s soccer team lost every one of their games in 2000. The team finished 0-18, while scoring only nine goals all season.
The Vikings were beaten severely on the field all season. They gave up an average of 4 goals on 31 shots per game to their opposition, while only attempting an average of 4.7 shots per game themselves.
Aimee Mansoor was selected for the second time to the second team of the All-Big Sky squad for her play as midfielder. And the team does look to be headed in the right direction. They have hired Tara Bilanski to replace former head coach Dana Kusjanovic. Bilanski has been actively recruiting new players. With no seniors this year, the team will also be returning all of their players.
The Viking wrestlers, an extremely young team, made a good showing for themselves in 2001, and earned the experience that will aid them in coming years.
Head coach Marlin Grahn’s team was also subject to injuries for much of the season, often causing the team to have to forfeit matches. This was part of why the Vikings lost many of their dual meets in 2001.
At the Pac-10 Championships, Portland State finished eighth, but senior John Fasana defeated the best the Pac-10 had to offer after an initial loss to qualify for an NCAA championship berth.
Junior Jeremy Wilson, the PSU male individual sport Athlete of the Year, also qualified for the nationals by making it to the title bout at the conference championships. Wilson narrowly lost the championship bout.
Fasana, who finished 19-11 at 125 pounds on the year, managed a win in the consolation bracket at the NCAA’s after losing his first match. He was eventually eliminated in his third match.
Wilson won his first match at 184 pounds, but was pinned by the number one seed in the second round. He then barely lost his next match. Wilson went 28-11 and will return for his senior season next year.
Although the Vikings were well below .500 in the conference, and abominable on the road (1-15), they proved that they could play with the elite of the Big Sky. The Vikings beat the second, third, fourth, and sixth-place teams in the conference, and played the first-place team to a close finish.
The team was led by junior Anthony Lackey, who averaged 14.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. The Vikings will lose seniors Luke Dean and Dony Wilcher to graduation. The two players are by no means expendable assets, either. At forward and point guard respectively, Dean and Wilcher were together responsible for over 18 points and six boards a game. Their contributions will be missed, but only losing two players means that most of next year’s team will have a year of experience playing together.
Portland State did win eight of 11 home games, and the younger players, especially forward Seamus Boxley, improved greatly toward the end of the year. These signs all point to a better year for the Vikings in 2001-02.
The women’s team brought back only four players from last year’s team for the 2000-01 campaign. The Vikings finished 4-24, and 3-13 in the Big Sky.
The team performed as could be expected from a team of eight newcomers and only one returning starter. To make matters worse, two of the returners, Kate Lillebo and Jade White missed the entire season as a result of preseason injuries.
The Vikings went 1-11 in their non-conference schedule and dropped their first nine conference contests, losing a total of 15 games in a single stretch.
The women righted the ship late in the season, knocking of the second place team in the Big Sky late in the season on the road. The Vikings would win three of their last seven games, two of them on the road, including a gutsy defeat of Cal State Northridge, in which only seven players were dressed for the game.
The future is uncertain for the team as they lose three more seniors next season. Most notably, Hiedi Hatcher will not return next year. Her 10 points and nearly six boards a night will be difficult to replace. Hatcher, the Vikings’ sole honorable mention on the All-Big Sky team will graduate this year.
Other seniors who will not be coming back are Shannon Thorne and Alicia Russell. Russell, an excellent all-around athlete who was a major contributor to the Vikings softball team during her career at Portland State, averaged nine points and three rebounds a game this year.
The Viking men’s golf team finished second in the Big Sky Championships, its second best finish in the five years they have been a member of the Conference. Portland State was led by Brodie Jordan and Doug Nelson, both of whom earned All-Big Sky Conference honors.
The Vikings finished well ahead of last year’s fifth place showing, showing improvement from a team of five underclassmen that will look to compete for the title next year.
The women’s team’s best-ever third-place finish at the tournament was overshadowed by Portland State female individual sport Athlete of the Year Taya Battistella’s remarkable individual accomplishment. Battistella won the individual Big Sky Championship and advanced to the NCAA West Regional in Corvallis, Ore.
At the Regional, Battistella had two bad rounds that left her in 74th place out of 107. Only a junior, Battistella should return next year to defend her title and lead the Vikings into Big Sky title contention.
The young tennis program at Portland State took some steps forward this year, but will need to make large strides in recruiting players and improvement among the returnees.
The women’s team, short on players the whole year through, finished their 2001 season by losing all four of their matches at the Big Sky Pacific Regional, and failing to qualify for the Big Sky Championships.
The team had to forfeit a doubles point and a singles point for many of their matches, as they could often field only five players due to injury or eligibility problems. The women managed two wins, and finished 2-21.
The men’s team finished 2-20, but had reason to celebrate as they earned the program’s first-ever match win. The men were also swept out of the Pacific Regionals, and failed to qualify for the Conference Championships.
The Vikings’ 2001 season can be looked at as a 61-game offensive slump. While the team was able to occasionally have a good hitting game, they rarely had two in a row. They were, though, very often able to string together several zero or one-run games. The Vikings’ solid pitching and defense could only compensate for a limited portion of their ineptitude at the plate.
The Vikings hit two 10-game losing streaks, one at the beginning of the season and one at the end, that accounted for nearly two-thirds of their total losses for the season.
The Vikings did manage to play well against the Pac-10, winning the season series against the Oregon Ducks and stealing a win from the Oregon State Beavers.
Anderson led the team with a .320 batting average (compared to the team’s .210 total), and often supplied the majority of the game’s offense for the Vikings. The one consistent offensive producer also proved herself an excellent clutch hitter, winning more than one game this year in her final at-bat.
A senior, Anderson will not return next year, but Seibert is only a sophomore and the team will only lose three other seniors. With good offensive recruiting, the softball team should make a postseason appearance next year.
Lead by Jeremy Park and Kristen Hall, the PSU track squads had a productive season considering their young and injury-prone roster.
Several individual Vikings concluded the year well. Highlights of the season came from Park who placed fourth in the 1500 meters (3:15.28) at the conference championships. Teammate Jim Sattem took seventh in the 100 in a time of 10.83. The men’s short relay (Sattem, Austin Pitchlynn, Jeremy Wilson, and Andre Gittens) steadily improved its marks, placing third at the championships and running its fastest time of the year at the Seattle Pacific Invitational.
At season’s end, the women’s squad fared decently as well. Lisa Gunderson tied her best high-jump mark of the year and took second at the Big Sky Championships. Jamie Breese finished in 14th place in the 1500, crossing the line in 4:56.52. Hall concluded the event in fifth place in the 400 meter hurdles (62.92).
Both teams were ninth overall. The teams look to have an uphill battle ahead of them. After administrative turmoil, many athletes have chosen to transfer and a new coaching staff will be left with many holes to fill for the upcoming season.