ST. GEORGE — If transitioning from Division II to Division I wasn’t hard enough, how about attempting the change during a pandemic?
Many of Dixie State’s firsts at the Division I level were delayed significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic as teams watched their seasons be postponed. The Trailblazers, like every other school in the country, had to battle through positive tests and other issues wrought on by the crisis. In May, they concluded a turbulent first full year as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
Some teams went through some understandable growing pains and struggled to compete at their new level. Others saw moderate successes in the win/loss columns. Some saw the pandemic decimate their schedules or wipe out their seasons completely. It wasn’t filled with the fanfare of full bleachers and community events, but Dixie State had reached the NCAA’s highest level.
Following are recaps from each team from Dixie State’s Division I debut, ordered by season start date.
The Trailblazer natators got the Division I era started, traveling to BYU on Nov. 7 for a friendly dual. They broke a couple school records in the 200-meter medley relay and the 100-yard breaststroke when freshman Haley Altman scored a 1:01.97.
Altman, also on the record-setting relay team, collected DSU’s first Western Athletic Conference Weekly award after being named Women’s Swimmer of the Week on Nov. 10.
They wouldn’t return to the water until Jan. 15, traveling to Northern Arizona for a dual. The ‘Blazers went 1-3 in duals overall, topping Seattle on Jan. 28.
In February, they hosted the WAC swimming and diving championships, where they finished seventh. Kathryn Carter’s silver medal in the 200-yard breaststroke was one of the team’s three medals total.
On the season, eight school records fell in the program’s fifth campaign: five individual and three relays. Kyrie Sutherland’s 51.67 in the 100-yard freestyle at the championships beat the school’s previous record by 2.5 seconds.
No other program felt the brunt of the pandemic more than the women’s basketball program. The Trailblazers played only three preseason contests before suspending activities for the remainder of the season on Jan. 5.
Five of the team’s eight nonconference games were canceled due to multiple instances of COVID-19 issues, inside the Dixie State program and those of their opponents.
The Trailblazers claimed their first Division I victory on Dec. 12 in a 81-52 shellacking of Park University in Parkville, Missouri. London Pavlica neared a triple-double with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Dixie State fell to Portland State four days later and then dropped their Dec. 21 game at Southern Utah, which would become their last one of the season.
The men’s basketball program dealt with COVID issues as well but played through their season. They finished 8-13 and 4-10 in their first WAC campaign.
In the preseason, they eked out their first win following the transition in game one, topping North Dakota 74-73 at Burns Arena on Dec. 2. The victory was the first of three to start the new season before falling in a close contest with future WAC rival Southern Utah in Cedar City on Dec. 17, 85-78.
Dixie State finished the preseason 4-3, including a 112-67 loss at No. 1 Gonzaga on Dec. 29.
The Trailblazers’ new conference wasn’t kind to them in the early going as they lost their first five WAC contests. On Jan. 30, they topped California Baptist 79-75 for the first conference win of the season. They topped Utah Valley 93-89 on Feb. 13, setting their high-water mark for scoring on the season.
After the losing streak to start conference play, DSU won four of their next eight games.
Guard Cameron Gooden and forward Hunter Schofield were named honorable mentions on the All-WAC team. Schofield was named second team on the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American team.
Tennis began its delayed season on Jan. 23, going 5-15 and 2-4 in the WAC.
The Trailblazers lost their first five contests against Northern Arizona, Utah State and BYU before having matches against Arizona and Gonzaga canceled due to COVID-19. They took three more losses after the pause before sweeping College of Idaho 7-0 on March 7 for their first win.
Dixie claimed their first conference win 5-2 over Seattle on March 21 at home, two days after falling 7-0 to Grand Canyon to begin WAC play.
They swept a doubleheader over Division II Colorado Mesa before topping Chicago State 5-2 on April 2 for their final win of the year.
Doubles pair Juliana Honczaruk and Rachel Mellor earned second team All-WAC recognition with a 5-4 overall record and a 4-2 in conference play.
The team finished fifth overall in the WAC.
Both men’s and women’s cross-country teams competed in the same three events.
They started on Jan. 23, hosting the first-ever Dixie State Invitational at The Golf Course at Sand Hollow Resort. Both teams finished last in their fields, the women in seventh and the men in sixth, against in-state schools Utah State, Southern Utah, Weber State and Utah Valley plus Idaho State and California Baptist.
Madison Flippence led DSU with a 26th place finish in the women’s 6-kilometer run and Kevin Kirk finished 37th to pace the ‘Blazers in the men’s 8k.
On Feb. 19, Dixie State traveled to Las Vegas for the University of Northern Las Vegas Collegiate Challenge. The women came in fourth out of five while the men won a head-to-head matchup with Embry-Riddle Arizona in the event’s second men’s race.
Finally, on Feb. 27, both teams traveled to Seattle for their WAC championships debut. The women finished sixth and the men finished fifth. Flippence and Kirk led the way again, placing 14th and 24th in their respective events.
The volleyball team put together Dixie State’s lone overall winning record in the 2020-21 season, going 9-8. They went 8-8 in the WAC, tying for fourth in the conference.
Their lone nonconference match was a 3-0 win over Southern Utah on Jan. 22 to open the season. They lost both games at New Mexico State before coming home to top University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Feb. 1.
The Trailblazers went on to win that series and two more, lose three and split two over the course of the WAC schedule. The series losses came against New Mexico State, Grand Canyon and Utah State, who each finished in the top-three of the conference.
Dixie finished the season on a three-game win streak, clinching the split at Tarleton State on March 9 before sweeping Chicago State on March 15 and 16.
Megan Treanor earned first team All-WAC and Kate Hardy was named to the freshman all-conference team.
The soccer team went 3-10-2 and 3-8-1 in the WAC.
They lost six of their first seven games and took a tie against Southern Utah on Feb. 14.
On March 11, they got they first win at Chicago State, 4-0. Whitley Griffiths scored a hat trick including a second-half hat trick. Adelle Brown got the shutout. The Trailblazers swept the Cougars the next day with a victory of the same score.
Dixie’s only other win came on senior night April 4 against University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, 2-1. Freshman Brynlee Roberts scored just three minutes into the match, and Griffiths scored her 10th goal of the season five minutes before halftime.
Griffiths was named first team all-conference, and defender Tess Donaldson landed on the second team. Sophie Stewart, Jill Bennett, Kelsey Cook and McKinley Barney all earned honorable mention nods.
The golfers capped a seven-competition season with an individual effort at the conference championships.
They finished seventh out of 12 in the first event of the year, the Southern Utah Invitational at Sunbrook Golf Course. However, they were one shot off fourth place. Davis Heslington shot a 2-under-par to tie for 17th place in the event. Spencer Wallace carded 37 pars and was tied for the most in the invitational.
At the Sacramento State Invitational on March 1-2, the ‘Blazers got a top-half finish, finishing sixth in a field of 13 teams. DSU shot +12 as only three teams ducked under par in the final tally. Freshman Aman Uddin tied for 21st in the event at one-over-par with Dylan Chugg two shots behind and Josh Pehrson three behind him.
DSU finished fifth at the University of California Santa Barbara Collegiate on April 13.
On May 2, they wrapped up the season at the WAC championships. The team was ineligible for team competition in their first season in the conference but had strong individual efforts. Heslington tied for 12th in the event at +2 and Wallace tied for 14th at +3.
The women’s golf team competed in seven events, including their debut at the WAC championships.
The team’s highest finish in a competition was at the Lamar Cardinal Challenge in Beaumont, Texas on April 6. They finished sixth out of 11 teams. Abby Livingston finished tied for 12th in the event on the strength of a single round score of 72, two strokes shy of the best round in the tournament. Tannica Porter finished 19th.
At the WAC championships, where DSU remains ineligible during the transition to Division I, the Trailblazers competed as individuals. Livingston shot 11 birdies, one shy of the tournament high, en route to a tie for 23rd place. Madison Moss came in 33rd, and Kaitlin Tsukamoto came in 35th.
A rough finish to the season tanked Dixie softball’s final record. The Trailblazers dropped 11 of their final 13 games and went 1-8 in their final nine WAC games to finish 19-30 overall and 6-11 in their new conference.
Before that point, they had played to a respectable 17-19 overall record. They bookended their campaign with two rough stretches, starting 1-9 in nonconference play.
The Trailblazers turned a corner in late February, going 4-1 in the Dixie State Tournament, which ignited a 9-1 winning streak.
Dixie earned three separate WAC Hitter of the Week awards, once for Mikaela Thomson, Meagan Anders and Hannah Hughbanks. Hughbanks hit .395 as a freshman with six home runs and 19 doubles, playing in all 49 games to earn first team All-WAC honors in the postseason. Thomson, Shea Clements and Malory Eldredge were placed on the second team, and Anders, Kasey Crawford and Oaklee Trapp were given honorable mentions.
Conversely to the softball team, baseball’s huge finish gave the team a fourth place finish in its new conference, tied for best among all of Dixie State’s teams.
Baseball finished 21-15 in the WAC but 24-32 overall. They started the season on a 10-game skid, falling to tough opponents Washington State and Wichita State before taking on New Mexico State to start conference play. The Aggies outscored the ‘Blazers 50-8 as they took the first three games of the series before Dixie erupted for 19 to avoid the four-game sweep and claim their first Division I victory.
However, the front-loading of the schedule paid off down the stretch. DSU won 12 of its final 16 WAC games and was mere innings away from taking two of three from No. 6 ranked Arizona to conclude the season. Along the way, the Trailblazers walked off BYU at Bruce Hurst Field and split a series with eventual WAC champion California Baptist. Individually, catcher Kaden Hollow hit .395 en route to a freshman All-American bid. Starting pitcher Jimmy Borzone threw a seven-inning no-hitter and was named conference Pitcher of the Week twice. Jake Engel broke the school’s career home run record.
St. George News recapped Dixie State baseball’s season in greater detail here.
The men’s soccer team went 3-6-0 and played only conference games, excluding an exhibition with BYU on April 10 to close the season. The Trailblazers finished eighth in the WAC.
Dixie State was shut out in their Division I debut, 4-0 by Air Force at home on Feb. 6. They earned their first win two games later, topping Incarnate Word 2-1 on the road on Feb. 27. Idris Alabi scored both goals for the ‘Blazers, one in each half.
They earned their first home win on March 20 against Houston Baptist, also 2-1. Nikolai Shumov scored an equalizer just before halftime, and Logan Beus netted the game winner in overtime.
On April 5, Jakob Moore earned the first Division I shutout for the program as Dixie State defeated University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 1-0. Moore made eight saves, and Matt Lockwood scored the game’s lone goal.
Dixie State scored seven goals on the season, four of which came from Alabi, which tied for sixth most in the WAC.
A foreign, five-game spring schedule yielded mixed results on the gridiron.
Dixie State went 2-3 in its first year in Division I, playing as an independent team in the Football Championship Subdivision. They took their first contest against No. 22 Tarleton State by a score of 26-14 in Stephenville, Texas. The Trailblazers defense forced five turnovers and held the Texans to just one offensive score. Quali Conley scored the first DI touchdown, rushing it in from one yard out just under five minutes into the game.
The Trailblazers then dropped their next three games, falling at New Mexico State on March 7 before dropping the rematch with Tarleton State in the home opener on March 13, 37-15.
Dixie then traveled to Kennesaw, Georgia, and played to No. 9 Kennesaw State’s level in a 37-27 loss.
In the season finale, Dixie State beat up Division II Fort Lewis at home, 60-0. A plethora of school records fell, including most passing touchdowns (Kody Wilstead threw five, tying the school record), longest field goal (James Baird hit a 50-yarder) and largest margin of victory. DSU gave the Skyhawks just 120 yards of offense all game.
The team has an 11-game schedule set for the fall.
Track and Field
The track team competed in five events culminating in the WAC championships in mid-May.
No team scores were recorded through the team’s four regular season events: the UNLV Invitational, Utah Valley Collegiate Invitational, Utah Spring Classic and BYU Robison Invitational.
Once the team reached the championships, they placed eighth out of nine teams despite setting various program records. Starlee Woodbury set a long jump record with a distance of 5.76 meters and dashed to a 14.29 in the 100-meter hurdles, good for sixth place in the tournament. Rachel Myers broke her own records in the 200-meter dash and the 400. The 4×100 relay team of Myers, Emma Terry, Jadyn Heath and Skyler Tillery claimed third place with a school-record-setting 48.17.
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