Golden Eagles land first national ranking, head to playoffs
October 27, 2011
By Darla Martin Tucker
RIVERSIDE, Calif. – (www.lasierra.edu) La Sierra University, for the first time in its history, is sending two of its Golden Eagles sports teams to a national-level playoff series next month.
The Golden Eagles volleyball and men’s soccer teams will contend with other teams in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Independent playoffs the second week of November in Phoenix, Ariz. and Thomasville, Ga., respectively. To top it off, the volleyball team, on Oct. 25, outplayed 15th-ranked California State University, San Marcos, 3-1, a huge win for La Sierra. Golden Eagles volleyball as of Oct. 27 held a win-loss record of 19-2. The soccer team on Oct. 19 also beat CSUSM’s Cougars 3-1 and currently holds a 10-5 record. Both teams face respective last games on Oct. 27 against Multnomah Bible College and on Oct. 30 against Chapman University.
The university scored its first hot field goal with its sports programs last month when on Sept. 14 Golden Eagles soccer ranked 24th in the nation by the NAIA, the school’s first national placement.
“The team was really excited about it,” said Dakota Shelton, a freshman history major who plays center defense. “We were excited that our hard work is paying off.”
The NAIA, which La Sierra joined last year, has approximately 300 college and university members around the United States and Canada. La Sierra completed a provisional year before launching into full NAIA member status this school year.
As a fledgling NAIA member, the university is getting off to a strong start with hopes set on making the independent NAIA championships this year. A series of new recruits are expected to help propel the Golden Eagles toward greater successes beyond last year’s high-performing achievements.
Golden Eagles volleyball recruited 10 new players this year from Sierra College in Rocklin, Los Alamitos High School, La Sierra High School, Norte Vista High School, Summit High School, Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, Glendale College, San Francisco College and Southwestern College in Chula Vista.
“Team success can be attributed to the hard work, dedication, motivation and [team members’] love for each other. They are a very close team. They call each other sisters,” said Head Coach Erin Conley. “Most of all they all desire the same thing--to better themselves, to better the program.”
Conley says she leads with “encouragement, praise and love for my players and the game. I instill in them to never settle for what has happened, win or lose, that we always strive to do our best and that when we have practice or a game we always take it to the next level.”
Samantha Arriaran, a senior sociology major from Norco and a top-playing setter for the volleyball team is considering playing the sport overseas after graduation and coaching. In an interview earlier this month she said the team is excited about its performance, “but our coach keeps reminding us our record doesn’t mean anything until the last game of the season.”
“On the court we’re always sisters,” added team defensive specialist Nikki Cheong, a senior pre-physical therapy major from San Francisco. “Off the court we’re always together. I don’t think women can play together if they don’t like each other.”
Meanwhile, La Sierra’s basketball teams, which finished last season with record performances including a first conference championship, are looking forward to even stronger placements this year. Both men’s and women’s teams have recruited key players. The women’s team landed four players from Andrews University, West Los Angeles College, Southwestern Junior College in San Diego and from Rialto High School. The men’s team recruited 12 players with waiting-list hopefuls placed on a junior varsity squad.
“We are looking forward to a fabulous season with definite playoff possibilities,” said Golden Eagles women’s basketball Head Coach Eric Thorson. “We will be playing 11 teams that finished last season ranked in the top 25 in the nation. We will also be playing four NCAA Division II teams, including home games against California State University, San Bernardino and California State University, Dominguez Hills. This year promises to be exciting and full of surprises,” he said.
Sophomore marketing major Alison Moon transferred from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich. to La Sierra to play on the women’s basketball team as a 5.11” power forward. She appreciated the support the university provides its Golden Eagles sports programs, Moon said. “There’s a lot of talent. It’s a growing program.” Additionally, “Coach Thorson made it pretty much impossible to say no” when recruiting her to La Sierra, Moon said.
Moon first learned of La Sierra University’s basketball program when, as a member of the Andrews University team, she played against the Golden Eagles in the Martin Luther King Classic Tournament in January at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Ala. La Sierra’s team swept the competition for the women’s teams winning against Andrews, Oakwood University and Southwestern Adventist University. “I thought they were organized,” Moon said of the Golden Eagles. “I thought that they had talent and that the coaches were really involved.”
Locally, Thorson recruited top Rialto High School senior Brittani Walker, a 5.9” starting forward on her high school’s Knights basketball team. Walker helped take the Knights to the California Interscholastic Federation championship in Sacramento in March and was named Most Valuable Player for the state finals in which Rialto was a runner up.
Walker, who plans to study psychology and become a pediatrician, received a scholarship to play as a team forward for La Sierra. She had considered four other schools including California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and Cal State Dominguez Hills. “The coach was very nice and welcoming, also the location is close to my family,” Walker said of her decision to join the Golden Eagles. Going forward, her hopes for the team are “to make a new impression, win a lot of games and have a great time together,” she said.
The men’s basketball recruits arrive from Portland Adventist Academy in Portland, Ore., La Sierra Academy, Redlands Adventist Academy, Hope International University in Fullerton, Arizona State University, San Bernardino Valley College, Pacific Union College in Angwin and Corona High School. Many of the new players hold first team honors, most valuable player and other basketball awards.
“We had a tremendous freshman recruiting class come in this year, also an outstanding group of transfers from other universities,” said men’s basketball Head Coach Derek Robbins. “With a strong varsity team, as well a strong junior varsity, we should have a very successful season, and hope to go far in this year’s playoffs.”
The new players arrived at La Sierra for sports, but also to learn academically and participate in college life.
Moon said she finds the campus “really pretty. They have a lot of good teachers and fun people,” she said.
Walker commented, “I like it. It’s very interesting and different, and everyone is so nice.”
Soccer center defense Shelton, a graduate of Yucca Valley High School, is following in his brother Shane Shelton’s footsteps as a La Sierra University student. “I love the school,” said Dakota Shelton. “I love playing for Coach Jesse. He makes it fun.”
PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University