Sports on a roll at La Sierra

La Sierra University Golden Eagles play hard against the Afghanistan National Team.
La Sierra University Golden Eagles play hard against the Afghanistan National Team.

November 15, 2010
By Darla Martin Tucker

With seconds left in the game, La Sierra Golden Eagles Aaron Snyder sent a three-point shot down the court and into the basket, bringing the final score within three points of winning the exhibition game against the Afghanistan National Team. The final score: Afghanistan 78, La Sierra 76.

The game, which took place on Oct. 31, attracted 440 fans and officially kicked off the men’s basketball season. Students, community members and supporters of the Afghanistan team filled the stands as the game progressed, shouting their excitement or frustration throughout the neck-and-neck competition. Several La Sierra students managed to keep their eyes on the players while simultaneously studying flash cards for various classes.

“I’m watching in my peripheral vision,” said sophomore pre-physical therapy major Brandon Pardosi when asked how he could do both at once. He held up a stack of bright yellow index cards inscribed with various chemistry notes. His friend, Dejon Hawthorne, sophomore pre-chemistry lab sciences major was engaged in the same form of multi-tasking. Despite their efforts at studying, the two were caught up in the competition and rendered their verdicts on their team’s performance. “They need to work together. They need cohesion,” commented Hawthorne. “It all starts in practice. If they work really hard in practice, it’s going to show,” said Pardosi.

Men’s basketball coach Derek Robbins heads into the new season with a variety of programs intended to strengthen the team and build up its support base, beginning with the exhibition game against the Afghanistan team. On Sunday, Nov. 7, the La Sierra athletics department hosted a Christian comedy night fundraiser for men’s basketball featuring the comedic husband-and-wife duo of Barnes & Miner.

Robbins had so many players this year he ended up with a waiting list. To ensure they stayed involved in basketball and had opportunity to play, he developed a junior varsity team, La Sierra’s first. “They’re just not really ready for varsity and we don’t want to keep them on the bench,“ he said. The new program got the official ’ok’ from La Sierra’s Division of Student Life on October 1. The team will follow a regular season schedule playing junior varsity teams from other universities and colleges. The team will practice together with La Sierra’s main varsity team.

Volunteer Coach Frank Estell is leading the fledgling junior team. The Corona resident and information technology specialist considers his arrival a providential occurrence. “For the last couple of years I’ve felt this calling. I’ve always had this love of basketball,” said Estell. He’s been involved with sports since age eight. While studying information systems at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego he played small forward on the school’s Sea Lions basketball team. After his wife began working for La Sierra, Estell decided to check out any volunteer coaching opportunities. “Things fell into place. It did prove to me that God was calling me,” he said.

On Nov. 11 Golden Eagles men’s basketball officially kicked off the season in a game against Hope International University at La Sierra. The event attracted a record crowd of nearly 600 people. The Eagles played a close game with a final score of 67-72 in Hope’s favor. Next games are against Azusa Pacific University, Utah Valley State College and California State University-Maritime, on Nov. 20, 26 and Dec. 4, respectively.

The La Sierra University Golden Eagles varsity sports teams are playing their first year as members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) after a move away from National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III sports. La Sierra’s soccer and volleyball teams played hard since August and September respectively, and winning games. And women’s basketball jumped into the new year with a new coach and three days of games in the regional segment of an annual college basketball tournament.

Women’s volleyball

In their last official game of the season La Sierra University Golden Eagles women’s volleyball team pulled out all the stops. They stomped West Coast Baptist College in Lancaster, California on October 28, in a 3-0 victory that brought their season record to 12 wins and nine losses.

The 10-member women’s volleyball team, under the guidance of Head Coach Erin Conley lists among its key victories a three-match sweep against West Coast Baptist on Sept. 21. Their good work this season garnered coverage in Riverside’s Press-Enterprise newspaper. Read the story here:

Of the 10 players, four were carryovers from last year and six Conley recruited from schools in California, Utah and Connecticut. “We look for people who are willing to learn and who don’t put themselves first and [who] are not out for individual glory,” she said. They seek athletes who are strong academically, spiritually, socially and athletically, Conley said. She motivates the players through love for the athlete and the game, encouragement, dedication and patience, “knowing and accepting the ups and downs and being able to build through those,” Conley said.

Men’s Soccer

The La Sierra University Golden Eagles men’s soccer kicked up a good season that included a few games played on La Sierra’s new, artificial turf soccer field. They also played the first collegiate soccer game between Seventh-day Adventist schools when they took on the Pacific Union College Pioneers on Oct. 17. The La Sierra Golden Eagles prevailed with a final score of 2-0. La Sierra continued its winning streak by beating the Academy of the Arts, a NCAA Division II school, in a following game.

On Oct. 31 the team took on California State University, San Marcos in its last contest, losing by one in a 1-0 game. Final record; eight wins, nine losses, two tied games.

Half of the soccer team is comprised of new players, recruited to La Sierra specifically to play soccer, said Head Coach Jesse Olivas during an interview in September. His key approach in coaching involves teaching players a system of playing, and to keep a balance of offense and defense, he said. “One of the biggest things is, you have to push them out of their comfort zone.“ The team met their toughest opponent on Sept. 6 when they played Vanguard University, ranked fifth in the nation. La Sierra lost by one point in a 3-2 game. “It was a good learning experience for the freshmen coming in,” Olivas said.

La Sierra University Golden Eagles women's basketball takes on Westminster College.
La Sierra University Golden Eagles women's basketball takes on Westminster College.

Women’s basketball

Golden Eagles women’s basketball began their season on Oct. 26 with a scrimmage against Biola University, followed by three days of games in the regional leg of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Montana State University-Northern. They played their first official game against Westminster College of Salt Lake City on Nov. 1 in a close match that ended 67-78 in Westminster’s favor. The team on Nov. 15 swept California Institute of Technology, winning 81 to 39.

The Golden Eagles women’s basketball team next takes on California Institute of Technology, Pacific Union College and Biola University on Nov. 20, 22, and 23 respectively.

Head Coach Eric Thorson is moving into his first season as the La Sierra women’s basketball coach. “Winning isn’t our focus, but playing the game the right way while on the floor is what I’m about, and winning will come out of that,” Thorson said. A firefighter for the city of Garden Grove, California, Thorson has a strong background in academy varsity sports, lettering in football, basketball and baseball while enrolled at Orangewood Adventist Academy in Garden Grove. He later returned to coach the boys’ Spartan basketball team, leading them to their first California Interscholastic Federation appearance. 

For additional sports information and game schedules for La Sierra University Golden Eagles go to


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)


  • Last update on  November 19, 2010