The Thunderbirds graduated one of their all-time great players in Anne Westwood-Higbee. Last year, she averaged 13.9 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per contest. She was the only T-Bird in history to lead her team in scoring and rebounding for three straight seasons. Her effort garnered her Summit League all-second team honors.
Despite losing their best player, SUU returns their second leading scorer, junior Challis Pascucci. She was the second-leading scorer behind Westwood, averaging 9.0 points and 7.1 rebounds per match.
Also returning are Caitlyn Sears, Cassie (Platt) Burgess, and Dani Hosking, all of whom saw significant time last season.
Maybe the biggest change this year is the introduction of a new coaching staff. J.R. Payne was named the head coach last spring. She already has a wealth of experience coaching, including stops at Gonzaga, Boise State, and UC Santa Clara.
She has worked in several different capacities. She began with the Bulldogs as an assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator. At Boise, she was an assistant coach, helping the Broncos to the NCAA tournament. With Santa Clara, she was the top assistant coach.
“I’m thrilled to join the Thunderbird family and this community,” Payne said. “It was the people here in Cedar City that really sold me on the program and I knew that this was where I wanted to be. I expect our team to be a blue collar team and work hard both on and off the court.”