By: Simran Sarai, Sports Writer
For SFU’s football and volleyball teams, September 17 is a date that’s been circled on their calendar. It’s all about opportunities for the football team. After four of their five home games were relocated to Blaine, Washington, September 17 will be men’s first and only home conference game at Terry Fox Field. For the SFU volleyball team, it’s a shot at redemption. The team will come face to face with Western Washington University (WWU) in Bellingham. The last time these two teams met, Western Washington eliminated SFU from the playoffs. We reached out to members from both teams to understand if these storylines were a focal point in preparation for their matchups.
This may be SFU’s first game in the Lone Star Conference, but it’s against an all too familiar opponent in Central Washington University. SFU hasn’t won a game against Central Washington dating all the way back to the 2013 season. The best chance to do so last season was at home, when SFU found themselves trailing their opponent by one point at halftime. This time around, the team is hoping to get a win in front of friends and family.
When asked about the team’s unique border situation, senior kicker Kristie Elliott says the team will have to do the most with what they’re given. “Obviously, it’s not the most ideal situation for us. We were so excited to have five home games, and now we’re only down to the one home conference game. It sucks, but what can you do about it? We’re still gonna go across the border and do the best that we can.”
The only home game of the season bears extra importance to Elliott, who is one of many seniors taking to the field to play one last game at SFU. Normally, you wouldn’t expect the first game of the season to carry such bittersweet sentiments. Because this will be the team’s final home game, graduating seniors will be honoured at the start of the season, as opposed to near the end. “It’s a big night for me,” Elliot said, “I’ll probably start crying.”
While it might not be the team’s first choice to sub out their home games to go across the border, Elliott is excited to get the chance to experience the football culture in southern American schools, which mainly make up the Lone Star Conference. “Football is completely different down there [ . . . ] There’s so many people there. Each football [team] has their own little football town.” She also spoke to the excitement and anticipation of the whole team, who are preparing to play against a slate of new teams this season. “I think it’s going to be a challenge, but I think we can take it on.”
The volleyball team had a strong 2021 season, going 17–9 and making it to the West Regionals for the second time in program history. However, the team was eliminated in the quarter-finals matchup in four sets by WWU. The Peak spoke with junior libero and defensive specialist Kalissa Beltran on the team’s hopes for redemption against WWU, and the team’s goals for the 2022 season.
Speaking to their elimination last season, Beltran highlighted the team’s gratitude in advancing to the playoffs in a highly competitive Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC). This preseason alone, the GNAC teams had a .700 winning percentage. What makes these two matchups even more challenging is the compatibility in their playing style. “Western Washington does a lot of things well [ . . . ] Both WWU and our team are gritty and passionate, making for a great match.”
When asked whether taking on WWU in Bellingham upped the stakes for the team, Beltran spoke clearly about the team’s focus on their own play, regardless of the opponent. But, she did acknowledge away matches can “create more of a fire” to hand the home team a loss in their own building. Beltran assured us the team is “less focused on expectations and more on simply getting 1% better every day.” The team is also heading into the 2022 season with the desire to represent SFU and its adopted name to the best of their abilities. “We are excited for this season under the new name and we will be focusing a lot on our side of the court and playing for each other.”