After just missing the playoffs last year, SUU soccer is gunning for the postseason.
The Southern Utah soccer team is coming off of their best conference performance since joining the Big Sky in 2012. Head Coach Fred Thompson led the T-Birds to a program high 12 points (4-6) in conference play and missed out on reaching their first ever Big Sky playoff appearance by one measly point.
Thompson took over as head coach in 2016 and brought a sense of urgency to the program. The 2016 T-Birds scored only seven points in Big Sky play and were nine points out of a playoff spot.
The T-Birds hope to convert that urgency into success on the field. Their record is currently 1-6, but the team has played all but two games on the road,against some very high quality opposition. The T-Birds were in this same position last year and went on to have a solid conference campaign.
As a frame of reference, seven of the ten teams in the Big Sky will head into conference play with losing records. It’s just the nature of smaller schools, you get beat up on by the big ones during the preseason. The tough preseason is not an accurate predictor of how conference play will go.
The preseason wraps up this weekend at home against Wyoming and California Baptist. The home matchup against Wyoming on Friday will be a tough one against a 4-1-2 squad loaded with experience. The T-Birds should use this weekend’s matchups as a jumping off point for conference play.
SUU was predicted to finish ninth in the Big Sky Coaches Poll.
The defense needs to be strong this season, and is the most experienced group in the squad. The unit is lead by seniors Summer Soriano, Brielle Bourgeois and freshman Quincy Pfeffer, who has played all but 14 minutes of the preseason. The defense will need to be the anchor for the squad if they want to have a shot at the playoff.
Goalkeeper Brianna Aldridge has been stalwart, if not a bit overwhelmed this season. Aldridge has made 44 saves in the preseason. That’s a lot of saves. That also means there have been a lot of shots. SUU allowed 50 goals last season in Big Sky play and finished last in the category. The Mississippi State transfer will make a huge difference if she can keep balls out of her net.
Coach Thompson needs to find a way to manufacture goals. The squad has scored four goals so far, and that will not cut it against high scoring teams like Eastern Washington and Idaho. The team’s leading scorer, Makenzie Lawrence, has returned for her senior season and started out strong with a goal against UNLV.
Devri Hartle has knocked in two goals so far this year, and will be expected to knock in a few more in conference play. Midfielders Brianna Sims and Ellee Layton will need to get into the attack more as the season goes on. The T-Birds scored 17 goals last season. You can’t win games if you don’t score, and the T-Birds will need to make the net ripple often this season.
The experience of the squad is encouraging. There are six seniors on the team and they want nothing more than to make the playoff. It’s within reach, but the T-Birds will need to perform well.
Make sure to follow @SUUSoccer for updates and watch the team on Pluto TV, channel 236.
Full Conference Schedule:
Sept. 21 at Weber State 7:30 PM
Sept. 23 at Idaho State 1:00 PM
Sept. 30 vs Northern Arizona 1:00 PM
Oct. 5 vs Sacramento State 4:00 PM
Oct. 7 vs Portland State 1:00 PM
Oct. 12 at Montana 3:00 PM
Oct. 14 at Northern Colorado 1:00 PM
Oct. 19 vs Idaho 4:00 PM
Oct. 21 Eastern Washington 1:00 PM
Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo by: SUU Athletics Strategic Communications