Drive for success; Q&A with fall sports coaches


Evan Patzwald, Assistant Sports Editor (He/Him)

Last spring’s athletics season presented many challenges, and long stretches of postponements had many different sports looking like their season would get canceled. But everyone made it to the end, and there were some historic moments along the way.

The football team advanced all the way to the Football Championship Subdivision title game and was one play short of winning the title. The volleyball team showed many improvements under first-year head coach Dan Georgalas, and the soccer team didn’t lose a game all season.

Looking forward to this fall, coaches, athletes and fans are hoping sports will look closer to the way they did before the pandemic started. Here’s a look at how the athletic coaches feel heading into the fall season.

Football’s John Stiegelmeier

Question: What is the confidence level heading into the fall after such a quick turnaround from last year’s spring season?

Answer: Our confidence level is high for many reasons. We have all but two starters back. We had a great run to the FCS Championship, and we now know what it takes to get to Frisco.

Q: Mark Gronowski went down with a major injury against San Houston. What is the status of the quarterback position looking like, especially with grad transfer Chris Oladokun coming into the fold?

A: Our top two QB’s, (Gronowski) and J’Bore Gibbs, are out for the year. We have five other quarterbacks that will compete for the position. Chris has been a great addition, but the position is wide open as of now.

Q: What protocols are different/the same in terms of COVID-19 from the spring season?

A: We are still waiting for the NCAA to set what protocols we will need to follow. Internally, our players that are vaccinated will have no restrictions. Those that are not vaccinated will have similar restrictions from the spring season, things like meals to go, restricted use of certain areas of the facilities, etc.

Q: You guys open the season Sept. 3 against Colorado State in another nationally televised game on FS1. How important is it that not only the team, but the whole university is getting recognized on a more national scale?

A: I think it is always positive if any sporting event or anything about SDSU gets national exposure. I expect there has been a very positive impact from the exposure we received playing in the National Championship and from ESPN’s College Gameday that was here in 2019.

Volleyball’s Dan Georgalas

Q: In your first season as head coach, the team improved in many areas and had the most wins in conference play since 2012 (6). How do you hope to build on that success?

A: First, I think the proximity of our two seasons will help us carry that momentum forward. It almost feels like we have a running head start for our next competitions this fall.

The rescheduled spring season was certainly unique, but now we don’t have to wait a full year to compete again. After finishing at the end of March, we don’t have to wait too long until we get started again this August. I know both our returners and new incoming players are looking forward to a more “normal” academic and athletic experience this fall.

Q: What was it like to come into a program that hadn’t had much success in recent years while also navigating your first experience as a head coach?

A: Well, our first season here was certainly a challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic was not how I thought my first year as a head coach would unfold, but we stayed positive and we learned how to adapt. Truthfully, we measured success differently. Staying healthy and celebrating some small milestones helped us focus on what we could control, and that is a big key to success in our program.

Q: Was it hard having such a quick offseason, as you just finished last season in the spring and now look forward to this fall?

A: To me, it’s more of an advantage. I think our team still got plenty of time for rest and recovery, so the last season is still fresh in our minds, and we know what we want to improve upon. We had a goal to finish our season on a five-match winning streak and came up one match short. I hope our team has a chip on their shoulder and remembers everything they accomplished and is still hungry for more.

Q: Crystal Burk is entering her senior season after recording an impressive junior campaign earning an All-Summit League Honorable Mention. What do you want to see from her not only on the floor, but off the floor as a leader, as well?

A: Crystal had an amazing spring season for us. It’s a shame we didn’t play a full schedule to see where her numbers could have been. She provides us great six-rotation consistency and is a physical blocker at the net. Our staff is putting a bigger emphasis this fall on mental performance as well as trying to develop our team’s leadership qualities. Crystal already provides so much for us in that department, but I know our team conversations will only help more leaders like Crystal emerge from the roster.

Soccer’s Brock Thompson

Q: After a very impressive spring season finishing without a loss (12-0-5), how do you hope to build on the momentum with much of the roster returning in the fall?

BT: Each season is its own journey, and we’re excited for this season. Yes, the experience we return will help, but ultimately our success will be a result of how we grow each week this season and connect with each other on and off the field.

Q: What protocols are different/the same in terms of COVID-19 from the spring season?

BT: There are still many potential protocols being discussed by the NCAA, Summit League, as well as our campus, but one thing remains the same: our No. 1 priority is to keep our team healthy and safe, and we adhere to any recommendations to do that.

Q: Eden Brooker took a huge step in her development last season, earning an All-Summit League First Team selection. What was it like seeing her improvement over the years while also getting the chance to see her play one more year?

BT: Eden had a tremendous spring season, and the growth from her previous year was a credit to the work she put in. We know she’ll continue to grow and impact our team on the field, but she also will help many of our younger players navigate the way to high performance.

Q: Last spring, you guys didn’t get an opportunity to play a nonconference schedule because of the pandemic. How important is it to get those extra games in this fall before conference play kicks off?

BT: Nonconference games are vital, as it gives us some time to experiment with our game mode and possibly different systems that we may want to play. I know our nonconference schedule will do a great job of preparing us for Summit League play.