Generation to generation: sibling trio competes in Utah Tech athletics

From generation to generation, this family isn’t like many others. While some spend time playing board games, the Laufisos spend their time in athletics.

Utah Tech University student-athletes Taela Laufiso, Mya Laufiso and Kailer Laufiso are siblings from South Jordan. Taela, a senior communication studies major, is a setter, and Mya, a freshman general studies major, is a libero on the volleyball team. Kailer, a freshman general studies major, is a linebacker on the football team.

Not only are the children athletes, but the parents are as well. Atina Laufiso and Jessica Laufiso are former student-athletes from Ricks College, now known as Brigham Young University-Idaho, where they played football and softball.

The Laufiso family started off as a basketball family until Taela decided to join the volleyball team during her freshman year of high school. Mya started playing volleyball in fifth grade, while Kailer started football in sixth grade.

Kailer said: “Ever since we were younger, playing sports was always a big thing for us. The goal was to play college sports, not only to play the sport that we love but to also get our schooling paid for.”

Taela started her volleyball career at Snow College in 2019 before she left to serve a mission for her church in Washington. In 2021, she returned to play volleyball at the formerly known Dixie State University, now Utah Tech. Taela graduated in May 2023 with a degree in professional and technical writing, but because of COVID-19, she was able to return to play for another year.

During the same year Taela was returning to Utah Tech, Kailer left to serve a mission in Columbia. On the other hand, while still in high school, Mya and their mom, Jessica, would make trips down to St. George to watch Taela play.

“I liked how she was liking her season, and it felt like where I wanted to be,” Mya said. “I kind of got closer to the coaches as I got older and started the recruitment process.”

Mya graduated high school in 2023, and Utah Tech became one of her top options to continue playing volleyball but at the collegiate level. While Mya was in the midst of recruitment, it influenced Kailer as he made his decisions on where to play. He decided on Utah Tech knowing he would be close to his siblings.

“Family has always been a big thing for us, and as siblings, we’ve always been super close,” Kailer said. “So that definitely played a big role in all of coming here to play.”

Although COVID-19 brought many inconveniences, it did bring the family together for Taela’s last year.

“I think it’s something I never thought would happen just because our age difference is five years,” Mya said.

Even though she is new to the team, Mya sees the potential that the volleyball team has for the season. The women’s volleyball team is currently 4-8 in their season, and for the rest of the volleyball season, the Laufisos are hoping they make it to the WAC tournament.

“We’re making big strides and things we hadn’t before, so I’m really excited [as] the pieces will come together for sure,” Taela said.

Kailer has enjoyed getting to know his teammates, the program and the culture of Utah Tech’s football team. The two losses for the football team at the beginning of the season were a way for the players to challenge themselves and figure out their identity as a team, said Kailer.

“We want to finish on top in our conference and just give ourselves the opportunity to be better every day,” Kailer said. “Give ourselves the chance to…get on the map, make this university bigger and just represent St. George.”

As the Laufisos continue to make their mark in Utah Tech athletics, they reflect on the opportunity they have to play together.

“You know not a lot of kids get the opportunity to play at the college level and also play at the college level with your siblings,” Kailer said. “It’s always been a super big blessing.”

Utah Tech women’s soccer rivalry game against SUU ends in tie

The match ended in a draw for the Utah Tech University women’s soccer team in its game against rivals, Southern Utah University.

The final score of the game was 1-1. The Trailblazers led with the first goal of the game at 24 minutes into the first half, and they were able to fight off any attempts made by the Thunderbirds until the second half.

Defender McKinley Barney, a senior nursing major from Mesa, Arizona, said the team was excited about the game against their rivals but played it like any other game.

“We didn’t want to let our emotions get the best of us,” Barney said.

Following some chaos around the net, Lacy Fox, a sophomore management major from Highland, took an opportunity and scored the one and only goal of the game for the Trailblazers. The goal was assisted by Brynlee Rider, a senior exercise science major from Layton.

Fox was named Offensive Player of the Week by the Western Athletic Conference and leads the team in goals this season so far. Rider was also recognized by the WAC as an assist leader with four assists.

The first goal and an intense defensive attack led to a strong first half for the Trailblazers. However, despite the promising first half, the Trailblazers lost their momentum, and SUU managed to score a goal just over 31 minutes into the second half.

“We got too complacent with just being up one goal,” Barney said. “It’s a dangerous lead to have.”

Rider said after losing the lead, the biggest thing the team can do is to regroup and get the energy and momentum back in their favor.

“Looking forward, we’re trying to connect passes, cheering each other on, celebrating a tackle, header, clean pass or shot,” Rider said.

A shot in the second half narrowly missed the net but received a reaction from the crowd. From the stand’s angle, many in the crowd thought it had gone in, but their cheering was premature. There was an audible groan when they realized it had missed the net.

The Trailblazers had control majority of the game, creating many opportunities. The team outshot SUU 17-9. However, only four of the shots made by the Trailblazers were on goal.

Fox said they didn’t capitalize on the opportunities they had in the first half of the game, and in the second half, they focused on getting those opportunities again but were unable to put one away.

“A lot of times we’ve come out poorly in the first half and done well in the second half,” Fox said. “We just need to stay connected and consistent.”

Utah Tech women’s soccer team will face off against California Baptist University in the Greater Zion Stadium again for their next conference game Sept. 28.

Communication lands Utah Tech women’s volleyball a win over Idaho

Utah Tech University women’s volleyball team dominated the four-set series in their home game against the University of Idaho, winning the series three to one. 

The opening set saw Utah Tech making a statement as they established early dominance. The team exhibited passion, teamwork and attacks as they slipped ahead of Idaho. The first set ended in favor of the Trailblazers with a score of 25-15.

Feeding off of the first set, the Trailblazers took control of the second set early on. By putting points on Vandal’s left and right, the pressure to come back was pertinent. The Vandals did what they could to fight back but ultimately lost the set 25-10.

Idaho, despite losing the first two sets, challenged Utah Tech in set three. They displayed blocking and defensive playmaking making it challenging for Utah Tech to find the gaps. Idaho took the third set with a score of 25-16.

Looking to put the game away, the Trailblazers controlled the fourth set. Utah Tech’s defense shut out the Vandals from scoring. The team was on top with a score of 25-9 ending the game and securing the win. 

Emma Ricks and Kennedy Knudsen both had some spectacular saves within the same rally. With Ricks practically jumping into the stand to save them from getting scored on, it ended with a successful point for the Trailblazers. 

Taela Laufiso, a senior communication studies major from West Jordan, said the team came out “mad” going into the fourth set and made some changes to the lineup. 

“We had a couple of outside hitters coming in from the bench, and they did great,” Laufiso said. “Then some defensive changes between our libero and our defensive specialist which was just what we needed.”

Utah Tech showed confidence and passion throughout the game. Their sideline was jumping around and dancing whenever there was a timeout. Their energy corresponded with the crowd. Every time there was a play made by Utah Tech, the crowd would uproar.

Head coach Camilla Hafoka said she wanted the team to play with discipline, and the constant communication is the reason they won those long rallies. 

“We told them to be their most authentic selves,” Hafoka said. “If everyone can play being their authentic selves, then we’re gonna be really good because they aren’t holding back who they are, and they can freely play.”

The team constantly communicated with one another throughout the game. From in-between sets to long rallies, the Trailblazers were talking to each other on and off the court, making sure everyone was in tune as one.

Hannah Howard, a senior exercise science major from Bountiful, said communication is something she, along with her team, has been trying to improve on. 

“I think what has helped our team succeed so much is having the blockers and the defenders communicating with each other, so we’re all on the same page,” Howard said.

With the win over Idaho, the Trailblazers move to 4-5 on the year. They will start conference play against Western Athletic Conference opponent, California Baptist University, Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Burns Arena.

Utah Tech football takes on NAU, looking to secure first win

After starting the season 0-2, the Utah Tech University football team will take on Northern Arizona University.

This non-conference away game will be played in Flagstaff, Arizona, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. Coming into this game, both teams are looking to capture their first win of the 2023-2024 season. 

Last week’s home opener game against the University of Montana didn’t end in favor of the Trailblazers with the Grizzlies coming out on top 43-13. Statistically, the Trailblazers played a game with over 100 more passing yards than Montanas’ offense and had 336 total yards in the game. In the end, the Trailblazers failed to convert and put more points on the board. 

Syrus Webster, a junior marketing major from West Jordan, said the morale is high, and they are motivated for the upcoming games.

“It [the season] didn’t start how we wanted it to start, but also it’s a long season,” Webster said. “It’s all about being able to bounce back and not worry about the game before but worry about what’s to come in the games ahead.”

Webster is one of the team captains for the Trailblazers and was named to the 2023 Buck Buchanan Preseason watch list. He is a key player in Utah Tech’s defense as he led the team in tackles last game with 5 solo tackles and 7 assisted tackles.

The saying “defense wins games” gets thrown around in football. While that may or may not be true, the offensive unit accounts for most of the points scored, and it starts with the offensive linemen.

Kana’i Eldredge, a senior elementary education major from Honolulu, Hawaii, said communication between the linemen is a crucial factor that will lead to the offense’s success.

“The first thing is cohesion,” Eldredge said. “You see a lot of the O-linemen always hanging out together, always being around each other…we want to get everybody on the same page because when we’re on the same page, we’re a really dangerous group.”

There is always room for improvement, and that is what practice is for. From team emphasis drills to one-on-ones with position groups, the Trailblazers are tweaking and fine-tuning their style of play to be ready for NAU. 

Ronnie Walker Jr., a senior sociology major from Hopewell, Virginia, said the team’s running backs are averaging about five yards a carry but are looking to average more while scoring more rushing touchdowns. 

“I think I’ve done well at pass protection, but I think I can do a little bit more,” Walker Jr. said. “So you know, being mindful and running the ball in an open space. Just using my eyes to be able to still make those big runs.”

Winning and losing are part of the sport. As the Trailblazers take the field in Flagstaff, they’ll apply what they’ve learned from the first two games to help them get their first win.

Get in the game: intramural sports creates unique way to have fun, stay fit

Intramural sports offers Utah Tech University students an opportunity to stay active, socialize and create a sense of community on campus.

Right now, there are five active intramural sports at Utah Tech including coed flag football, men’s sand volleyball, women’s sand volleyball, coed sand volleyball and coed outdoor soccer. Games are played Monday through Thursday all over campus.

Intramural sports are considered physical activities. With all physical activity, it can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

There is no need to panic for the students who are not yet signed up for any of the sports already mentioned. Intramural sports will be played and available to sign up and join all year. 

Intramural sports and their signup deadline dates include:

  • Men’s Flag Football ———-Aug. 29
  • Pickleball ——————–Sept. 2
  • Co-ed 3v3 Basketball——–Oct. 27
  • Women’s 3v3 Basketball–—Oct. 27
  • Men’s 3v3 basketball———Oct .27
  • Cornhole———————Nov. 6
  • Turkey Bowl ——————Nov. 27

Traci Collins, the assistant director of campus recreation, said any student can play along with the spouses of students, faculty and staff and that the process for students to sign up for intramurals is simple.

Students can download the app, IMLeagues, or go to the IMLeagues website. Every student has an account provided for them. By using their D numbers and Canvas password, they are able to log in and sign up for the sports they want to play.

Collins recommended students sign up with a team. Although it’s not mandatory, it does guarantee a spot on the game schedule.

For students who don’t have a team, they can sign up as free agents. Already established teams can pick players who sign up as free agents.

Tia Capron, a freshman digital film major from Waipahu, Hawaii, said if students are thinking of playing but are scared, just do it.

“Honestly, you get to meet people and make really fun bonds,” Capron said. “I just met my friends a few weeks ago, and I think that practice helped to get to know them a little bit more.”

Being part of a team often involves teamwork and cooperation. This allows students to develop valuable life skills like how to communicate effectively, strategize and work together toward a common goal.

For some, playing and being on a team is a stress reliever, and for others, it can be the gas that fuels their competitiveness. 

Jaxon Peebler, a sophomore media studies major from West Jordan, has played a couple of intramural sports; however, he said flag football is his favorite.

“We go out and play a sport we love against other people, and it’s just a fun time,” Peebler said.

Whether you’re an aspiring athlete or simply someone looking to stay active, there’s a place for you in intramural sports.

Utah Tech women’s soccer welcomes new assets, learns from loss

There is a new future for the Utah Tech University women’s soccer team as they made changes during the offseason by adding new assets to the team.

Despite the new additions, it hasn’t affected the team’s chemistry.

The new additions to the team include:

  • Head coach Lexi Brown 
  • Two assistant coaches, Juli Nield and Nick Vorberg
  • Nine incoming freshmen 
  • One transfer from Utah Valley University

Coach Brown said coming into a program with high-quality players already committed are things she is grateful for.

Regardless of her new position, Brown and the team came out and secured their first victory of the year with a 3-1 win over the University of South Dakota. 

Goalkeeper Brianna Frey, a sophomore management major from Salt Lake City, said the team had to reshape and overcome the challenges of having a new head coach. 

“As a team, we just carried so much energy coming in,” Frey said. “We stayed with a positive attitude. We knew the changes that were going to happen, and we know it’s kind of scary, but I think just remaining super positive and uplifting each other, we have a very positive group and a good team chemistry.”

This season, the Trailblazers are looking to build on what they accomplished last year. They ended the 2022 season with a 10-6-2 record and made it to the Western Athletic Conference tournament. 

Brynlee Rider, a senior exercise science major from Layton, said her personal goal for the season is to score more goals and put the ball in the back of the net. She also shared some team goals. 

“I think obviously one of our biggest goals is to get back to and go deeper into the WAC tournament,” Rider said. “Right now we’re focusing on our attack. We’re really trying to slow the tempo down, connect passes, and then get forward into the attack as a team.” 

This is Brown’s first year as a head coach. Brown said the preparation and stress are much higher compared to being an assistant coach.

Ultimately, she said she is confident, ready and grateful for the pressure that comes with being a head coach. 

Brown started her collegiate soccer career playing for UVU. After graduating, she helped coach the Wolverines as an assistant coach for two seasons before leaving to coach for Gonzaga University, where she spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach.

Brown led Utah Tech into its home opener Aug. 24 against the University of Idaho Vandals. It wasn’t until late into the second half that the Vandals took control on the field pushing deep into Trailblazer territory and taking a shot to land the lead. With 13 minutes left, Utah was looking for a last-second goal to put them back into the game. However, there wasn’t enough time for the Trailblazers to answer back, and they ultimately lost the game 1-0.

With every failure comes a lesson, and the loss against Idaho is no different. Brown recognized what the team could improve on and provided insight into how they wanted to play as a team. 

“We would like to be a team that presses a little bit higher and that plays a little bit more cleanly in transition,” Brown said. “We needed to do a much better job to maintain possession and keep the ball tonight, and it showed that we’ve trained transition a lot and haven’t really trained on keeping the ball.”

The women’s soccer team advances to 2-2-1. The Trailblazers will take what they can from the loss against Idaho and face Gonzaga University Sept. 3 in Spokane, Washington.

Utah Tech softball pitcher receives WAC award, acknowledges team for success

A Utah Tech University softball pitcher was awarded for her hard work on the mound but credited her team for her success.

Kate Dolinski, a redshirt fifth-year psychology major from Fort Langley, British Columbia, started softball when she was around nine years old.

After training with Team Canada players that played college softball in America. Dolinski knew she wanted to have a softball career down south and eventually go back to Canada.

“I’m a very competitive person, so any sport that I kind of picked up I was pretty passionate about,” Dolinski said. “But when I got into high school, probably my junior year was when I fully committed and was like, ‘this is what to do for the future.’”

Dolinski chose to attend Utah Tech because of the sunny, warm weather in St. George and the Division I factor after playing Division II for two years.

“Coming here was a big game changer for my career, and it made me love the game even more,” Dolinski said. “My teammates were the best people in the world, and they pushed me to be better every day, so I can’t thank them enough. Big credits to them.”

Dolinski was recently named Western Athletic Conference Softball Pitcher of the Week for her performance during the three-game sweep against Seattle University. 

In her two starts against Seattle U, Dolinski went 2-0, striking out five batters while giving up just one earned run. During the last game of the series, Dolinski had a four-hit shutout and had only one Seattle U runner reach third base.

Head coach Randy Simkins said Dolinski loves big moments, loves to compete and wants the ball in big situations.

“She’s going to be someone that we’re definitely going to need some big innings out of going forward throughout the rest of the year for sure,” Simkins said.

Ashtyn Bauerle, a redshirt senior sports management and communication studies major from Syracuse, said Dolinski is hardworking, passionate and plays with emotion. 

“As far as her influence on other athletes, it’s probably seeing her compete on the mound with the emotion she plays with,” Simkins said. “That’s definitely infectious throughout our entire team.” 

Dolinski was also complimented for being supportive, celebrating teammates’ victories and helping everyone around her.

Dolinski said she never cared too much about personal accolades and believes the whole team played a part in her achievement. 

“My team makes me want to push myself to do better, and I just want to be able to do the best job that I can for them,” Dolinski said.

Women’s club volleyball raises money to travel to tournament

Utah Tech University’s women’s volleyball club hosted its first fundraiser – which was a spike in success.

The sand volleyball fundraiser held April 15 was hosted to raise money for the women’s club to compete in a tournament in Grand Junction, Colorado. 

Club president Hanna Gates, a junior radiology major from Wayne County said: “The overall idea of it was to make money for us to go to a tournament because we are a new club and we had last-minute fees and dues to play. So we wanted to cover those and make it as least stressful on the girls as we could.”

Gates said around 10 teams competed in the fundraiser and nearly two thousand dollars was raised. 

Vice president Emily Wight, a junior art major from West Jordan, said the competing teams in the fundraiser were comprised of four-six people. All the girls in the club were heavily encouraged to participate in a team within the fundraiser.

Each competing team within the fundraiser had a fee of $150. The entirety of the money from those fees is going toward the club and its members for the tournament in Grand Junction. 

Club member Ashlee Bueler, a sophomore management major from Camp Verde, Arizona, said the fees will go toward new jerseys for the club, food and the Airbnb for their tournament in Grand Junction.

Wight said: “We were deciding for a long time how much we wanted [the price] to be, but we know that people will come out and support us. We had a lot of our men’s clubs make teams and then we had some community members that came and supported us and made a team. It was a lot of students [participating], but the team that ended up winning it actually was mostly just community [members].”

Bueler said because this is a new club, the goal of the fundraiser was to mainly raise money, but it also met the goal of everyone meeting new people who share one common love – volleyball.

The club was officially formed right after spring break and had to get the word out through Instagram and campus resources like the Human Performance Center. 

Wight said: “We are a club, so we have to remain open always; we’ll always have open gyms that girls can come check out and see what it’s like. We will have a tryout though for our tournaments. At the beginning of fall we’ll hold tryouts again. We’re a new club, but we are getting off to a really good start.”

Wight said future fundraisers will be expected as soon as summer and most likely during the fall semester. 

Wight said, “We’re planning on trying to make it to nationals next year so that means we have to qualify [for] the regional tournament…we’re really excited about the future and playing in some competitive tournaments.”

More information about the women’s volleyball club can be found on their Instagram

5 big entertainment releases for April 2023

We are now deep into the month of April, and the entertainment industry continues to deliver on lofty promises, including an Italian plumber breaking box office records.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp

A title originally slated for release December 2021, this remake of the classic Game Boy Advance titles from the early 2000s will release April 21.

After being delayed from its original release date to April 2022, the game was delayed even further to 2023 due to the war imagery portrayed in the game not mixing well with the real-life conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Advance Wars is a strategic, turn-based RPG with the player taking control of various soldiers, vehicles and commanders while attempting to overtake enemy territory. While this sounds like a typical portrayal of war in a video game, Advance Wars is very lighthearted in its art style and execution with bright visuals and cartoon-like character designs.

Regardless of real-world events, it’s wonderful to see these classic titles receive a fresh coat of paint.

Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp releases April 21 on Nintendo Switch.

“Evil Dead Rise”

The Evil Dead franchise returns with the previous installment being “Evil Dead” (2013). While the previous film was a remake of the original film from 1981, “Evil Dead Rise” is the first completely original film in the franchise since “Army of Darkness” in 1992.

So what can the audience expect with this new foray into this storied franchise? If you’ve seen any Evil Dead film, you know what’s going to happen. Lots of demon possessions with copious amounts of blood and gore.

“Evil Dead Rise” releases in theaters April 21.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor

This is a sequel to the 2019 video game, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The game focuses on a jedi who is on the run from the empire as he tries to find ways to protect those who may be sensitive to the force.

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is very similar to its predecessor in tone and style with an emphasis on new ways to use a lightsaber in combat. This includes using different stances to approach different types of enemies requiring a bit more finesse than just mashing a button.

In terms of continuity, the game takes place between “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” It also occurs during the same time period as the Disney+ show “Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor releases April 28 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Series S and PC.

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores

This is an expansion to Horizon Forbidden West, a PlayStation exclusive from 2022. An expansion is when a developer adds substantial content to an already existing title. The price is usually less than the game, but it requires the player to own both the original game and the expansion in order to play it.

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores focuses on the protagonist, Aloy, as she travels to a post-apocalyptic Hollywood to prepare for an impending threat approaching Earth. The game features robotic versions of dinosaurs and various modern-day animals which Aloy needs to either tame or destroy in order to progress.

Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores releases April 19 on PlayStation 5.

“The Super Mario Bros Movie”

The Italian Plumber makes his animated big-screen debut courtesy of a collaboration between Nintendo and Illumination.

Defying critical reception, “The Super Mario Bros Movie” set a new record for most money earned for an animated feature film during its opening weekend. The previous record holder was “Frozen II.”

The momentum of ticket sales isn’t slowing down either since the film recently became the best-selling film based on a video game, and it has barely been two weeks since its release.

“The Super Mario Bros Movie” is now in theaters.

Many of these titles are releasing in April because of various delays and extenuating circumstances. The fact these titles are finally releasing is a testament to the tenacity of the entertainment industry and should be enjoyed to the fullest, much like the rest of 2023.

New facility in the works for Utah Tech’s golf teams

Utah Tech University’s men’s and women’s golf teams are teeing off to new heights with their “world-class” practice facility at Black Desert Resort this coming fall.

“Facilities is one area that we can, as an institution, be top of the league or close to the top,” said Ken Beazer, executive director of athletics during his acceptance speech March 31, 2022.

Brooke Gelinas, a freshman dental hygiene major from Bonney Lake, Washington, said it is amazing to see a young, Division I program making these improvements for the golf teams at Utah Tech.

Head women’s golf coach Lindsey Stucki said, “We currently have great golf courses to practice here in St. George, but a dedicated practice facility is going to be a game changer in helping our student-athletes’ development.”

The new golf facility will include two, full-size chipping greens and a putting green. The athletes will also be able to hit shots up to 140 yards along with additional sand bunkers and hitting areas. 

“One of the things that is very exciting is that the practice facility will be maintained just like the golf course, so the players will have tournament conditions every single day to practice,” said head men’s golf coach Brad Sutterfield.

Sutterfield said there are plans to include more facilities such as locker rooms, a workout area, an indoor hitting bay, coaches’ offices, a kitchen and a study area for the student-athletes.

Gelinas said she is looking forward to spending more one-on-one time with her team in the facility and with the coaches.

Not only will the facility help current athletes enhance their game, but it will also help with recruiting future athletes.

“Recruiting has already been helped tremendously even though the facility is not done yet,” Sutterfield said. “We already have one of the best recruiting classes we have ever had coming in next year, and the fact that our facility will be done by then was a huge factor in our recruits’ decisions.”

Both the men’s and the women’s golf teams will have a place to work on their putting, wedges and short game to help the team ultimately compete at a higher level. 

“Black Desert Resort has been an unbelievable partner for us and has built this practice area that will be unmatched in the area,” Sutterfield said. 

The new facility is set to be completed and ready for athletes to excel, learn and hone their golf skills Sept. 1.