It’s hard to stay relevant when you haven’t had a winning season in 14 years. Fortunately for the Southern Utah University soccer team, second-year head coach Kai Edwards is turning that around.
With COVID-19 delaying the 2020 women’s soccer season into the spring of ‘21, Edwards faced an uphill battle before even stepping onto the pitch. Being forced to work around cancelled games and tough exhibition matches, it was a month and a half before the Thunderbirds got their first win.
After a mid-season three-game losing streak, Coach Edwards was able to turn his team around and finish the season with four wins in a row. That stretch included an 8-0 victory over the University of St. Katherine, and a road win against Weber State for the first time since 2014. The most important storyline though, was that those four wins lifted SUU to a 5-3-1 overall record, its first winning season since 2007.
Fresh off the impressive feat, Edwards was awarded a contract extension that will secure him through the 2024 season.
“After just one season, even with the distractions of a pandemic, Kai has proven he is the right coach to lead our soccer program,” said Debbie Corum, SUU Director of Athletics.”His team won the most games in a season since 2017 and secured the first winning season since 2007. With all the success he has shown in recruiting, winning and developing our student-athletes, we knew we wanted him at SUU for the foreseeable future.”
Through four games this year, Edwards and the Thunderbirds have gone 1-3. A win at Hope International got the season started off, followed by losses at UC Irvine, UNLV and UC San Diego. Four games in, Coach Edwards is emphasizing that players continue to do what is asked of them. Nothing more, nothing less. With SUU’s roster being relatively young – featuring only three seniors – the focus right now is improving week to week.
“I think if our players do what we ask them to do, we will be successful. If we change things, they will get confused and won’t trust it,” said Edwards after the loss against UNLV. “I trust what we are trying to do, so we won’t change too much. We will just try to do it better than we did today.”
The Thunderbirds showed that improvement in their 2-1 overtime loss to UC San Diego on Tuesday, Aug. 31.
SUU will play their next three games at home, all out of conference games before they gear up for Big Sky play. If Edwards’ philosophy holds true and the Thunderbirds continue to show improvement, the wins will start coming.
SUU hosts San Jose State University on Friday, Sept. 3, at 4:05 p.m.
Story by: Christian Esparza