Homecoming and rivalry week coinciding has proven to be one of the most spirited weeks on campus for Southern Utah University, and it ended with SUU volleyball and football facing off against the Utah Tech University Trailblazers this past Saturday, Sept. 24.
Both universities have four men’s and seven women’s athletic programs in common, with two playing this past weekend. The stakes were even higher with both Utah Tech and Southern Utah competing in the Western Athletic Conference.
On the court
Thunderbird volleyball started off slow, losing the first set 25-20 after a quick start from the Trailblazers. However, SUU released the thunder in the second set by taking the lead early. The rest of the second set was a back-and-forth battle with SUU winning the second set 26-24.
The third set was the same story with neither team backing down. SUU went on a 6-1 run in the middle of the third set and held the lead. The Trailblazers wouldn’t go away, eventually tying the third set at 19-19. The Thunderbirds were able to hold on and win the third set 25-22.
The fourth set saw both teams fighting with all they had. The lead would switch hands multiple times throughout the set. SUU remained composed and fought to keep the lead. The Thunderbirds finished the set on a 5-3 run, winning the fourth set 25-23 that resulted in a win for SUU volleyball.
Macy Short led the Thunderbirds with 34 assists, two of which lead to the game winning points in the third and fourth set. Volleyball moves to 2-9 on the season and receives their first conference win in the WAC. With the win, SUU ties the all-time series at two wins a piece for both programs.
On the gridiron
Then it was football’s turn to dance with the Trailblazers in “The Battle of the Ax.”
The Thunderbirds scored first with running back Elijah Burns punching it in. Utah Tech responded with their first score of the night. Quarterback Kobe Tracy connected with receiver Rickie Johnson for the 18-yard touchdown. The second quarter was filled with more action. Receiver Isaiah Wooden caught a 65-yard bomb from quarterback Justin Miller for the touchdown, giving SUU the 14-7 lead.
“It’s awesome. He is so quick and has great releases off the line,” Miller stated about his connection with Wooden. “It is really easy to trust him out there; we get a lot of practice time. He is such a great person and great receiver.”
Both teams exchanged field goals, and the half ended with Miller finding receiver Ethan Bolingbroke in the endzone. SUU led 24-10.
The Thunderbirds’ offense sputtered in the third quarter, unable to put any points on the board. The Trailblazers were finally able to get in the endzone again, and at the end of the third, Utah Tech had cut their deficit to 24-17.
SUU’s defense held strong in the fourth, shutting out the Trailblazers. Safety Rodrick Ward had two interceptions in the fourth quarter. Ward has been one of the top players on the defensive side of the ball and a leader of the defense.
“Honestly, I just tell them to play the next play. Whatever happens, it’s another down, another play,” Ward said about his leadership style. “Play hard, just go hard, give it all you got.”
The Thunderbirds would score one more touchdown from running back Bobby Cole to ice the game. SUU won 31-17 and moves to 1-0 in WAC play for an overall 3-1 on the season.
SUU completes the weekend sweep of the Trailblazers. Both squads will face the Trailblazers one more time, both of these being road games down to St. George, Utah.
While starting times have not been decided yet, volleyball will play on Oct. 29 and football will play the following Saturday on Nov. 5.
Article by: Anthony Colasuono
Photo by: SUU Athletics