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Utah State athletics: Aggies reap rewards of overall sports success

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 7 2012 7:00 a.m. MST

USU became the first women's soccer team to win back-to-back WAC titles since 2004.

Ryan Talbot, RyanTalbot/Utah State Athletics

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LOGAN — If you recently moved to Cache Valley, or are a freshman at Utah State, you might not know what that blue "A" is on top of Old Main — or that it isn't always blue.

The "A," which is switched from white to blue lights when a Utah State athletic team wins, has been working overtime this fall. The Aggies have become an unstoppable force in nearly every sport in their final season as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

Everywhere you look in Logan, there is another sport excelling.

The resurgent football team headlines the winning. Under head coach Gary Andersen, the gridiron Ags are having their best season since 1974 with two more regular-season matchups and likely a bowl game to go. If Utah State can go on the road and beat Louisiana Tech on Nov. 17, it will clinch at least a share of the last WAC football title.

"It's a great time to be involved in Utah State athletics," Andersen said. "It's a great time to be involved in Utah State as a university. Anybody that can't see that is crazy. We are all very lucky to be here — every coach, every student-athlete. We are in a great place at a great time and we are all very lucky to be here."

While the football team garners most of the attention, it is far from the only sport ruling the USU roost of late.

The women's soccer team — led by three-time WAC defensive player of the year Natalie Norris — is unbeaten in its last 11 matches after winning the WAC tournament at home last weekend. The Aggies became the first team to win back-to-back soccer championships in the WAC since 2004 and are advancing to their second-ever NCAA Tournament on Friday in Provo, where they will face No. 1 seed BYU. With Norris leading the way, Utah State has been one of the stingiest defensive teams in the country, allowing just 10 goals in 21 matches.

With two matches left this season, the USU women's volleyball already clinched at least a share of the WAC title. It is the only WAC regular-season championship ever for the Aggie spikers and their first in any conference in 13 years. Utah State will go into the WAC volleyball tournament in San Antonio as the No. 1 seed later this month.

And it doesn't look like the momentum will stop when the fall sports end and winter rolls around, either.

Men's basketball, the sport Utah State has been best known for, is once again picked to win the conference title by the media. After a down season last year, coach Stew Morrill has reloaded with size and athleticism across the board. Preston Medlin was named preseason player of the year in the conference and will look to improve upon a 2011-2012 campaign that saw him average 17 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game.

Their female counterparts on the hardwoods have been on a steady rise for the last several years and have been picked to win the conference over perennial powerhouse Louisiana Tech. With new head coach Jerry Finkbeiner, the Aggies will push the pace and look to win their first championship of any kind since restarting the program in 2002. Like Medlin and the men's team, the women will have the WAC preseason player of the year as well in senior guard Devyn Christensen.

"I couldn't be happier with the kids' progress not only on the field, but in the classroom as well," Utah State Athletic Director Scott Barnes said. "We always say that athletics is the front porch of the University. It's not the most important room, but it is the most visible. I couldn't be happier with the people on our porch right now."

Combine the success on the field with off-the-field improvements like the new logo, uniforms, scoreboard in the Spectrum, playing surfaces at Romney Stadium and The Spectrum, and a move to the Mountain West Conference in 2013, and the future looks bright for the Aggies.

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