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Volleyball is back in action

The 2003 volleyball season is officially under way. The Viking players gathered at Tualatin High School on Monday for their first official practice of the year, but will return home to the Stott Center once final renovations are complete.

This season’s squad will have to live up to some high expectations. Since Jeff Mozzochi reprised his role as head coach in 2001, the formerly flagging program has steadily made strides toward improvement, culminating in last year’s 10-14 season and first-ever trip to the Big Sky Conference Championships.

The current team was picked to finish fifth in a pre-season BSC coach’s poll, the highest Viking ranking in the past few years. For the second season in a row, Eastern Washington was picked to finish first, followed by Sacramento State, Montana State (who sent PSU packing in the 2002 BSC Championships) and Weber State, with Northern Arizona, Montana and Idaho State rounding out the final three spots.

Statistics prove that Mozzochi brings out the best in his players. During his first run as PSU head coach from 1984-92 – commonly referred to as the “glory days” – Mozzochi’s teams routinely dominated the floor and captured a total of four NCAA Division II National Championships.

This year’s returning players are Richell Wilson, Kathy Garbacz, Stephanie Lavigne, Kristin Ratzlaff, Lisa Thomas, Jessica Brock and Kaylene Munson. Junior Rachel Stevens and sophomore Niki Lambert are recent transfer additions. Incoming freshmen include Jessica Brodie, Sarah Leenders, Marla Morin, Michelle Robertson and Jessica Vanzant. Sophomores Faune Drake, Ashley Hoogland and Samantha Klumph will be red-shirting this season.

Wilson and Garbacz should prove to be the most effective Vikings on offense. Both posted solid kill percentages last season and will need to fill the void left by former standout Katie Kost. Ratzlaff and Brock will back them up as defensive specialists.

The Vikings will head to West Point, N.Y., for their first pre-season tournament Aug. 29, before heading home for the Nike Portland Pilot Preview at the Chiles Center Sept. 5-6.