Orientation: Men's sports programs set goals for fall

With a new school year comes new challenges for Weber State University athletic programs. Men’s fall sports include football, basketball, hockey, golf and cross-country. WSU constantly looks to build on its athletic successes and improve struggling teams.

Football is coming off a less-than-remarkable season, posting a 2-9 record with zero home wins. However, head coach Jody Sears said he feels confident that, with the new offseason acquisitions, the team will greatly improve.

“One of our goals recruiting-wise is to bring guys in here from winning programs who know how to win and have those leadership skills. I’m happy with the freshman kids that will be coming in. I’m not going to knight them yet; we’ve got to see how they do in camp. But I love the personnel that we’ve brought in.”

Sears, now in his second season as head coach, said he looks to build on the positives he had in his first year.

“Obviously, offensively, we’ve got to take care of the football,” he said. “Defensively, we’ve got to create more turnovers. That turnover margin is huge; that’s going to be a major priority for us going into camp and a major priority for us during the season. Then, at the same time, we’ve got to score more points, and defensively, we got to build on how we finished.”

WSU was ranked 11th out of 13 in the coaches’ poll for the upcoming season, but Sears said he doesn’t put a lot of stock into preseason polls.

“Last year we were picked fifth or sixth and finished up 12th,” Sears said. “I have not seen a preseason poll make a sack, make a tackle, make a touchdown, make a pass, make a catch or make a kick in all the days of my life. We’ll use it as a motivating factor, but we’ve got work to do.”

Men’s basketball had one of the most successful seasons in WSU history last season. The team was just edged out by the University of Montana for the Big Sky Championship. It also participated in the College Insider postseason tournament, finishing runner-up to East Carolina University. The team finished with 30 wins, a WSU single-season record.

Head coach Randy Rahe said he likes his new recruiting class and hopes to build on the success the program has had the last few seasons.

“We’ve been recruiting some pretty quality guys the last two classes,” Rahe said. “In this class, if we can get a really good class of kids here, now we’ve got three terrific recruiting classes back to back to back.”

Rahe said he is looking for his team to win the Big Sky Championship for the first time since 2007. He said he wants the team to beat UM, but that the conference has a lot of good teams to look out for.

“North Dakota has its best team in school history,” Rahe said. “Northern Colorado is terrific this season. There’s more than just Montana out there; there’s a lot of good-quality teams. We try to prepare for the whole league and not worry about one team too much.”

The WSU men’s basketball team has recently received national recognition. It was even named in articles as one of the top 10 most promising up-and-coming college basketball programs in the country.

“It’s really a compliment to our players, to my coaching staff, because they work so hard at trying to be a good-quality program,” Rahe said. “We never want to be satisfied with kind of staying status quo. I don’t know how far we can go or how good we can become, but I want to test the limit.”

WSU hockey is also coming off of a successful season, having made it to the Division II national tournament and finishing in the top 10 in the country. The team won the regional tournament to make it to nationals, and has even loftier goals for the upcoming season.

“Our team is even better than it was last year,” said head coach Joe Pfleegor. “We have two goals this year: beat Utah State at home and win nationals.”

The team will have a chance to accomplish its first goal with the season-opener against Utah State University on Sept. 13. The road will get even harder after that.

“We actually have a tougher schedule this year, which, I think, in the long run, will help,” Pfleegor said. “None of those games are easy. It’s going to get them more prepared to play in that national tournament.”