Women’s basketball looks to repeat as WAC champions

Coming off arguably their best season in school history, the Southern Utah University women’s basketball will look to continue the success they had as Western Athletic Conference champions. The 2023-24 regular season will officially start on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 6:30 p.m. when SUU hosts Eastern Washington University.

Tracy Mason, head coach for Southern Utah, enters her sixth year leading the Thunderbirds. She carries an overall record of 78-67 as head coach with winning records over her past four seasons. Mason is coming off a historic coaching season for SUU where the team went 23-10 to earn the WAC regular season title, won the WAC Tournament and punched their ticket into the women’s NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.

Key departures
Here are the losses from last season:
— Guard Cherita Daugherty
— Center Lizzy Williamson
— Guard Kinlee Sorensen
— Guard Emmy Clarke
— Guard Lexi Jensen
— Forward Bryar Tronnier

New additions
To make up for the team’s losses, new faces have been added to Mason’s roster:
Jaeden Brown, junior transfer from Utah Valley University
Shiho Isono, junior transfer from Western Nebraska Community College
Charli Kay, Ava Uhrich, Alexandra Eldredge and Maria Garcia, incoming freshmen

Returning players
Even with the loss of significant starters from last year’s run, SUU will have a few key returning players looking to lead the team back to the WAC championship game. Graduate student Tomekia Whitman is coming off a year where she won WAC Sixth woman of the year, was named to the All-WAC Second Team and averaged 11.8 points per game. 

Senior Daylani Ballena is also coming off a strong year where she started all 33 games for the Thunderbirds. She also finished first on the team in assists per game with 3.8 and led the team in three-point field goal percentage, knocking down 39.2% of her shots taken behind the arc.

Graduate student Megan Smith also appeared in all 33 games, starting in all but one. Smith led the team in field goal percentage at 56.1% and was third in scoring with an average of 11.3 points per game.

Junior Aishah Anis, graduate student Alexa Lord, sophomore Ashley Banks and senior Samantha Johnson will also be returning.

Key upcoming games
— The first WAC game will be Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m. when SUU  hosts California Baptist University.
— Southern Utah will host the University of Utah on Saturday, Dec. 15, at 5 p.m. in the America First Event Center.
— The season finale will be Saturday, March 9, at 2 p.m. when SUU hosts the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in the America First Event Center.

Author: Jack Paul
Photographer: Anden Garfield
Editor: Anden Garfield