Fall semester at Southern Utah University is now underway, bringing with it another exciting season of Thunderbird Athletics. With a new crop of T-Birds in town, we checked in with the coaches to find out what’s in store for fans this season.
Fall sports on tap are football, men and women’s cross-country, men and women’s golf, women’s volleyball and women’s soccer.
“A common theme in all of our teams this year is the appearance of many new faces,” said Kyle Cottam, assistant sports information director. “It’s a great opportunity for our new athletes to step out of the crowd and really be seen.”
Among the new faces is Aaron Cantu, who will be starting quarterback for the SUU football team. Running back Christian Taele is a breakout hopeful, as is freshman Raysean Martin who Head Coach Ed Lamb says “has game-breaking ability and runs the ball really well through the tackles.”
After an intense stretch of two-a-day practices in early August, followed by a team retreat to foster relationship building, the Thunderbirds kicked off their season on August 29 in Mobile, Ala. where they defeated the South Alabama Jaguars in a tight 22 – 21 comeback win.
The Thunderbirds have been slotted in ninth place by the Big Sky Conference coaches’ and media pre-season polls.
The Thunderbirds will return to Eccles Coliseum for their season home opener on Saturday, September 7 at 6 p.m. when they take on Fort Lewis College.
This year’s Homecoming game is slated for Saturday, October 12 when the Thunderbirds will play Portland State. In keeping with tradition, a tailgate party will precede the game, beginning at noon in the Eccles Coliseum parking lot.
Also kicking off their season down south was the SUU women’s volleyball team who faced off against Georgia Southern University in the South Alabama Tournament on August 30. The T-Birds fell to the GSU Eagles 25 – 22, 25 – 17 and 25 – 17, giving SUU an all-time record of 2 – 3 in season openers since the program’s return in 2009.
This season, the team welcomes four new players—Joanna Christenson, Ann Clappier, Pikake Laumauna and Sariah Pelaez.
“Each of them have excelled both athletically and academically and each could have an immediate impact,” said Head Coach Debby Baker. “These four bring a championship mentality with them and will really help us out in achieving our goal of a Big Sky Conference Championship.”
For the third consecutive year, SUU’s women’s volleyball team has been named an American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award winner.
The team’s final pre-season tournament is set to take place on Friday, September 13 where they will face New Mexico State, Coach Baker’s former home team. The first SUU volleyball home game is slated for Thursday, September 19 at 7 p.m. when the team will host Weber State.
Welcoming 13 new freshmen this season is the SUU women’s soccer team whose success continues to rise with each passing year.
“We believe that is an indicator that our team is gaining tremendous awareness as an up-and-coming soccer program,” said Head Coach Becky Hogan of the large number of new recruits. “One of the most important qualities of this group of young women is that they are an excellent complement to the current players on our roster.”
The team got things off to a great start in their August 28 season home opener, defeating UC Santa Barbara 4 - 3. Now on the road for the Colorado College Invitational and Arizona Cats Classic, the team will make a stop in between tournaments to play the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City on Sunday, September 8. They return to the SUU pitch to face off against UC Riverside on September 20 at 1 p.m.
The SUU men’s cross-country squad opened their season with a win on August 30 when they beat the Idaho State University Bengals on their home turf in Pocatello, Idaho. Senior Anthony Brown led the Thunderbirds with a first place individual finish.
The women’s cross-country team fell to the Bengals by just one point, but sophomore Aubrey Bryson finished first individually, making for a T-Bird duo in first place.
The team welcomes four newcomers this season—Sean Newcomb, Rachel Stone, Morgan Vorwaller and Justin Secakuku.
On Friday, October 4, the teams will host the Color Country Invitational, their single home competition after a road tour including meets at Utah Valley University, UC Riverside and the Notre Dame XC Invitational.
Rounding out the fall season catalog is men and women’s golf, which continues throughout the academic year.
Coming off a second-place finish in the America Sky Conference, the men’s team began its season earlier this week at Weber State’s Battle in the Tetons where they finished third. The team will host the Pat Hicks Thunderbird Invitational on February 10 and 11, 2014 at Sunbrook Golf Course in St. George.
SUU’s women’s golf team also faced Weber State in their season opener, placing third in the Wildcat Invitational on August 30. The women’s team will host the SUU Invitational on March 13 and 14, 2014 at Sunbrook Golf Course in St. George.
For tickets or season packages to SUU athletics events, fans may purchase online, order by phone at (435) 586-7872 or visit the Thunderbird Ticket Office, located at the west end of the Centrum.