Fall is in the Air and on the Field
August 14, 2009
With temperatures still topping the 100-degree mark, autumn may not be on many minds, and yet, with just two weeks until Southern Utah University welcomes back its more than 7,500 students, campus is already abuzz with activity. And for 162 of the University’s student-athletes, the fast-approaching fall season is all-consuming.
Now just over one week into training camp, SUU’s football, soccer and volleyball teams are quickly moving toward season openers and an official end to the off-season. And with cross country not far behind, starting their training camp next Monday, these last few idle summer days provide the perfect opportunity for SUU fans to speculate on the upcoming sports season.
According to Ed Lamb, now in his second season as head coach of SUU’s football program, summer has indeed ended for his players. The team is currently practicing 17 hours each day, and Lamb says his players are “bigger, stronger and faster than last season.”
Lamb and his coaching staff have focused their efforts on helping their players “make a solid connection between hard work and success,” and he says fans can expect to see “a physical team, capable of running the football efficiently and stopping the run on defense.”
The team will open its season at home in a much-anticipated game against Dixie State on Thursday, September 3, and will host four additional home games, including the University’s Homecoming Game against North Dakota on Saturday, October 24.
With tailgate parties slated to precede all home performances, the team’s five home games are not to be missed.
Coming off a fairly successful season last year, making it all the way to the conference semi-finals, Head Coach Brian Stock says the team’s fans will see “a much more sophisticated attacking team this season.” According to Stock, the team has “multiple offensive threats” in terms of its players, and they will focus on possession, “forcing [their] opponents to work very hard to defend them.”
Now four days into training, Stock is seeing individual players and the group as a collective improve daily, and he and his staff are focused on molding individual talent into a cohesive team. States Stock, “Our players know how to play; our challenge is to make sure the right pieces are put together on the field on game day.”
The women’s soccer team will open its season at home against Northern Arizona on Sunday, August 23. In addition to nine conference games, the team will also face off against three teams from within the state this September, including Brigham Young University, Utah Valley University and Westminster College, and will host its annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game, against IUPUI, on Saturday, October 10.
As the University’s newest team, SUU Women’s Volleyball will take the court this fall after a 22-year hiatus (Southern Utah State College maintained a women’s volleyball program through the seventies and eighties in the NAIA Division). And according to Head Coach Deborah Baker, this inaugural season promises to be something new and exciting for Thunderbird fans, citing the fast pace as credit to its crowd appeal.
Now, just four days after the team met together as a group for the very first time, Baker states, “We have some great athletes who are very dynamic and can crush the ball.” She and her staff have seen significant progress as their training camp has continued, and in addition to getting the players accustomed to a faster level of play, she is focusing on providing ample opportunity for her players – more of them are new to the team than are returning – to “learn more about one another’s personality and get to know one another on and off the court.”
The team will open its season with two tournaments, the first in Texas and the second in Colorado, and will then immediately begin conference play with a home game against IPFW on Thursday, September 10, at 7 p.m.
The team will host a total of ten home games from September through November, and Coach Baker plans to “take each match as it comes,” building on the team’s experience and, hopefully, success.
SUU’s Cross Country team has a tradition of success, with 11 conference titles for the men and eight conference championships for the women’s team to date. And with several track and field regional qualifiers and a national cross country qualifier on this year’s team, the 2009 season brings with it high hopes to maintain the legacy.
Head Coach Eric Houle will get his first look at this year’s team when training camp begins on Monday and anticipates that his players will arrive in top form. Says Houle, “Cross country isn’t something that our athletes can’t work at during the summer, and I expect them to have trained hard and had a productive off season.”
According to Houle, this year’s men’s and women’s teams will both be “deep and talented,” and he fully anticipates “that [they] will be among the favorites for a conference title at the end of the year.” Considering the conference championships will be on the team’s home turf, in Cedar City this October 31, a successful season will be that much more rewarding with a home crowd to cheer the runners through to the finish.
additional meets leading up to the Summit League Championship. Houle expects both teams to be very competitive at the regional and national levels,” and based on seasons past, one would anticipate this year’s team will rise to the challenge.
With four different teams opening their seasons within the next month, it’s time to break out the red tees to root for your SUU Thunderbirds.