The fall semester is two weeks in and the Weber State University volleyball and soccer teams are a few games into their season after both were picked to finish second in their respective Big Sky Conference preseason coaches’ polls.
The soccer team finished with 67 total points in the poll with three first-place votes. Only Northern Colorado placed higher than the Wildcats, with 76 points and six first-place votes.
The soccer team’s 2018 season ended with a regular season Big Sky title. WSU entered the tournament with a first round bye and surprisingly exited in the tournament’s semifinals to Montana.
Junior defender Haley Thomas believes that the preseason polls will provide a catalyst for the team as they prepare for conference play.
“I think that our team will use it as motivation,” Thomas said. “And it will just make us want to come out and beat those teams that maybe did beat us last year even more and make us work harder.”
The biggest change for the Wildcats on the pitch comes at the head coach position. With former head coach Tim Crompton being named interim athletic director, longtime assistant Meagan Thunell takes the reins after 15 seasons on the sidelines with Crompton.
The Wildcats return several of their starters from last season, although the team did lose six seniors to graduation. Despite this, Thunell expects players like Thomas and senior goalkeeper Nikki Pittman to again anchor the defense after their efforts last season.
Thunell added that although certain players stand out, she has been pleased with how the team has come together as a whole. As a result, the Wildcats will not need to rely on a single standout player to anchor their success.
WSU is currently 0-4 after playing Cal, Arizona, Arizona State and Utah State. The Wildcats will hit the road for games against Nevada and Boise State before their home opener on Sept.15 when they take on the Fresno State Bulldogs at noon.
The volleyball team received 89 points and one first-place vote to finish second in their preseason poll. Northern Arizona finished first with 100 points and 10 first-place votes.
Even with the preseason praise, volleyball head coach Jeremiah Larsen doesn’t think the final tallies will affect his team’s play this season.
“It doesn’t do anything in terms of our motivation. It doesn’t mean anything, to be honest,” Larsen said. “It’s just nice that other coaches think we’re going to be pretty good.”
The Wildcat volleyball team finished third in the conference last season before falling in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament in a three-game sweep by Northern Colorado.
The Wildcats lost only one senior from last year’s squad. Most of the team’s starters return, including senior middle blocker Hannah DeYoung, who finished 15th in the nation in hitting percentage last season.
DeYoung said that as the season approaches, the team’s preparation consists of treating each practice like a game and not overlooking any team on their schedule.
Her teammates plan to play each game with consistent intensity and focus.
WSU is coming off an impressive first week winning the Wildcat Invitational at the Swenson Gym. The ’Cats took down the UNLV Rebels and Cal State University Northridge Matadors. WSU’s only loss came at the hands of the Portland Pilots.
The Wildcats hit the road for the next two weekends competing in the BYU Tournament and the Missouri State Tournament before returning home September 21 to take on in-state rival the Utah State Aggies.