Some Sunbirds fall teams celebrate success, others look to future promise


By Enzo Peraggine
Syrinx Staff Writer

Athletics are a big part of the Fresno Pacific University community, and Sunbirds fans want their teams to have good seasons and perform to the best of their ability.

The fall semester brought mixed resuIts for the athletes representing FPU´s colors and values. At this early stage in the spring semester, here’s a look back at what happened during the fall.

Men’s soccer

The Sunbirds men´s soccer team ended its season with a 3-11-3 overall record under veteran coach Jaime Ramirez. While the season fell short of what the team and coach were expecting, the team provided an exciting late comeback in a 3-2 win at home against the Academy of Arts.

It’s fair to mention a lot of positive aspects of the up-and-coming freshman that showed undeniable talent and potential during this season.

Women’s soccer

The Sunbirds women’s soccer team rolled up a positive season with an overall record of 8-7-2, and 5-5 in Pacific West Conference play. The season included several matches in which the Sunbirds prevailed by multiple goals.

Joel Robinson, the Sunbirds women’s coach, left the program after one season to pursue other opportunities, according to the university. Amanda Valentine is serving as interim coach during a nationwide search to replace Robinson.

Men’s water polo

Coach Bryan Suhovy’s’ Fresno Pacific’s men´s water polo team, populated with nine freshmen players, experienced a disappointing 3-23 record (0-8 in Western Water Polo Association play). The evolution from high school to the college level takes time, but FPU did score a highlight win with a 13-11 double-overtime victory over rival Biola University in the WWPA championship tournament.

Women’s volleyball

The FPU women’s volleyball team, guided by first-year head coach Mike MacNeill, gave Sunbirds fans a season to remember with a 16-9 overall record, including an 8-2 record at home in Fresno. The team finished second in PacWest conference play with a 15-5 record.


Sunbirds swimmers and divers began training in August and competed throughout the fall, and are competing in the Pacific Collegiate Swim and Dive Conference championships starting Feb. 8 at East Los Angeles College.

Both the men’s and women’s teams under head coach Brian Sharar scored victories over The Master’s University in their Senior Day meet at Sunnyside High School.

First-year coach leads Sunbirds volleyball rebound

FPU women’s volleyball coach Mike MacNeill is a study in intensity as he talks with his players. Photo by João Perez / The Syrinx

Mike MacNeill was hired as Fresno Pacific’s women’s volleyball team just weeks before the first game of the season. Here’s how that worked out.

By Enzo Peraggine
Syrinx Staff Writer

In just his first season as head coach of the Fresno Pacific University women’s basketball team, Mike MacNeill orchestrated a turnaround for the Sunbirds following a disappointing 2021 season.

Under MacNeill, the Sunbirds women played their way to an overall record of 16-9, doubling the number of wins compared to last season, and a 15-5 record in the PacWest Conference – good enough to place second in the season-ending conference standings.

It was a remarkable season that surprised many, and represented a marked improvement from the 2021 season when FPU finished with a record of 8-22 under former coach Shasta Millhollin.

MacNeill brought to the team a change in mentality which led to a unified team that provided Sunbirds fans with outstanding performances on the court, compiling a home record of 8-2.

Three Sunbirds seniors were recognized with all-conference honors for their efforts in the PacWest Conference: Corinne Acosta as a first-team selection, and Chloe Melis and Makena Ogis as second-team honorees.

As a player, MacNeill knew how to achieve success. As a libero and outside hitter at California Baptist University in Riverside, he played in four NAIA national championship matches for the Lancers. The team won national titles in 2010 and 2011, and MacNeill led the country in aces per game in 2011.

MacNeill has continued to experience success as a coach, building a resume of winning records. He coached for three years at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, finishing his time there with a record of 52-25. MacNeill went on to coach for two seasons at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, racking up a record of 43-21.

MacNeill said his experience as a player has informed his coaching. “It is helpful to have seen from a player perspective what an athlete is looking for in a coach and in a program,” he said.

Fresno Pacific hired MacNeill as its new head coach on Aug. 8, 2022, with the first exhibition game of the season less than four weeks later, on Aug. 31. With so little time, MacNeill quickly got to work with the team to prepare for the season.

“The team battled from the first practice to the end of the season,” MacNeill said. “Special groups like these don’t come around often. They believed the plan and believed in themselves, and that was a difference maker.”

The Fresno Pacific Sunbirds women’s volleyball team rolled up a 16-9 record for the 2022 season under first-year head coach Mike MacNeill, back row at left. Photo by Matlyn Peden, Fresno Pacific University.

Why don’t we travel?

The struggle of bringing the birdcage on the road

Students at Fresno Pacific University as well as student athletes are being deprived of one of the greatest community experiences that college has to offer: student sections. Earlier this year we talked about not having fans in the stands but just recently we had an opportunity that would’ve given our Women’s Basketball team support at the PacWest Tournament.

There was a bus scheduled to take a set of fans to the tournament for a day trip and it was canceled. While yes, it was during midterm break and many were off campus, many students still remained on campus that could’ve filled seats. The mentality with coaches is, “if we win, they will come” but that doesn’t seem to be the case at FPU.

The benefits that we have compared to a big school is that the players on the court are ones that we would have multiple classes with and create relationships with. At huge schools, you might only know the athlete by what you see on the screen and might only have had one class with them. FPU gives students the chance to connect with its athletes and have more than just fans in the stands.

Not only do the students get to be apart of the experience for the athletes but the professors do as well. Professors going to games means a lot to the athletes; everyone is pretty excited anytime they see Professor Q at a sporting event. So why would we deprive our athletes of the experience of taking their friends to watch them play?

The answer in the past has been “lack of interest” but if we deny even the possibility of going, then we will never gain the interest.

The trip was initially planned because the Women’s Basketball team made the tournament which means that there was a special occasion to go and support. Why is this service not sponsored regularly so that we could have continuous support for our athletes?  

Student Life does a great job of creating a community for those that live on campus but one of the biggest parts of our community is sports. Especially in a college community, student sections are almost a right of passage for a college experience

Getting to the sole of the matter

Shoes aren’t just for kicks, they are a form of self-expression

In the world of athletics, there has been a subculture that has been growing and expanding outside of the world of sports: sneaker culture. Sneaker culture first started in the ’70s but went into a larger demographic in the year 1985, when the first Air Jordan came out. This changed the sneaker world forever with the biggest sports star being the face of the campaign.

This birthed a generation of sneakerheads that paid $125 for a pair of shoes in the year 1985.

As sneakers have continued to grow in style, color wave and price, we can’t help but wonder what makes people want to buy so many shoes.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the person with the most shoes, weighing in at 2,504 pairs of shoes, is Jordy Geller of Las Vegas. Some people have a tough time believing that one could own so many pairs of shoes and others ask the question, “What pairs does he have?”

We look at students on our campus and think, “Do we have any major sneakerheads on this campus?” The answer is yes, and you may come to realize you are a sneakerhead to a different degree.

The first place we went to look for sneakerheads was on the court and what we saw were some amazing kicks. Nike dominated the court with these pairs and we wondered what the coaches thought of their students wearing their own kicks on the court.

“It’s a fun way to express yourself and show some individual style”  Tim Beauregard, FPU Women’s Basketball Coach, said.

The student athletes have shown their style and it has been noticed on Twitter. The FPU Basketball Teams have a sneaker cam on twitter that is used to show off the pairs that our student athletes are wearing on the court. The #SunbirdSneakerCam is on twitter and was started by our very own Matt Mazzoni, Assistant Athletics Director for External Relations. Mazzoni began the sneaker cam because it is something that was started by the Los Angeles Lakers digital media team that later made its way to the whole NBA.

“Shoes allow them to express their style and promote their personal brand on the court, so I wanted to highlight them for something other than just how many points they scored that night.” said Mazzoni.

This has been reaching not only basketball players but baseball players as well and has made its way to FPU alumni. With so many athletes here on campus having strong shoe game, we can’t help but wonder if it stops there.

Playing a sport or not, there is a confidence that comes from wearing a pair of shoes that you’re comfortable in.”

We meet Isaiah Vega who is a sneakerhead here at FPU. Vega is a junior, communication major and cannot fit all of his shoes in his closet. Vega lives in an apartment and with 38 pairs of shoes, has three shoe racks in his room. Not all of his shoes are basketball shoes; there are also indoor soccer shoes, Vans and converse.

Vega has multiple ways of describing a sneakerhead, “A sneakerhead is someone who doesn’t care about someone else opinion when they buy shoes, they think about what’s cool to them and what they want on their feet”.

The individuality of the sneakerhead is show through the shoe regardless of what others think about them. People collect a certain type of shoe with every colorway. A colorway is the color, art or style on a specific type of shoe.

Vega also talks about the nature of sneakerhead. “The shoe is a statement and when you get to be about 18-19 years old, your foot stops growing and you will be able to have this shoe for years and years and years. You can’t say the same about shirts or pants.” said Vega.

The longevity of a pair of shoes is a part of what makes a sneakerhead a sneakerhead. As many people go through a pair of shoes every six months, sneakerheads like the challenge of making a shoe last a lifetime. “You know you’re a sneakerhead when you get a scuff on your shoe and you instantly get down and try to rub it out.” said Vega.

Like Vega said before, the shoes make a statement and that is a feeling all sneakerheads can relate with. The shoes make you feel a certain way and Vega said, “When players are on the court, they feel confident with what they have on their feet. They shoot the three and look at their shoes. Its the shoes that make you powerful.”

When talking about his first pair of Jordans, Coach Beauregard said, “ I just remember putting them on my feet and I just became better at basketball. Going into my driveway and shooting and dunking on a low hoop, and feeling like those shoes did it all for me. Playing a sport or not, there is a confidence that comes from wearing a pair of shoes that you’re comfortable in.”

Macklemore has a song called “Wings” that resonates with sneakerheads. “I started out, with what I wear to school. That first day, like these are what make you cool. And this pair, this would be my parachute. So much more than just a pair of shoes”

The shoes that make you feel confident is what being a sneaker head is.”

These shoes do not have to be basketball shoes; they can be boots, flats, heels and sandals. The shoes that make you feel confident is the way a sneakerhead feels.

The sneakerhead goes beyond sneakers. One could own 20 pairs of Vans and be considered a sneakerhead, one could own 20 pairs of heels and be considered a sneakerhead. It all depends on what your niche is.

Athletics, ethos and the bigger picture

Fresno Pacific Athletics made the jump to NCAA in 2011, and what followed was not easy. Coaches were charged to both assist in making the transition easy and to produce a program that could develop a tradition of winning. While FPU has had some success in recent years, we can’t help but notice when a team has an unproductive season.

The Fresno Pacific Volleyball team started rough, with a 0-10 record, but is now sitting at 4-13 while being 3-5 in conference. The team has gained some young talent, but a spat of injuries didn’t help them begin the season. Throughout their difficulties, however, the team has remembered one thing: “they are playing for an audience of One”.

In an interview, Tracy Ainger-Schulte emphasized a point that resonates with the culture here at FPU: it is about more than just the game.

“On a higher level, much greater than volleyball, I think that’s what they’ve [the girls] embraced,” Coach Tracy said.

Coach Tracy has wanted the girls to embrace this ever since they had a visit from Pastor Angulus at the beginning of the season. She made it clear that her expectations for the girls were high and have always been high, stating: “My expectation never changes … We are never going to be satisfied with who you are as an athlete, as a student, in your spiritual walk, we are always going to demand more from you in the four years that you are here”.

While some may think that coaches demand a lot from their athletes, others would argue that the coach is preparing them for the real world. Tracy makes sure that she and her coaching staff are on the same page when dealing with the sport, but also when dealing with accountability issues. They are all about preparing the girls for the real world, because Tracy believes that “it’s all about the bigger picture”.

“it’s all about the bigger picture”

Tracy believes that the Ethos she has created for the girls on her team will be visible on more than just the court, but also on the campus and the community. With this bigger picture idea, we can see that it is not only in volleyball, but is present in all Fresno Pacific athletics.

FPU and the goal

With an athletics program that won the PacWest Community Engagement Award, we can see that bettering the community around them is a significant part of who FPU athletes aim to be. Being a NCAA Division II program, FPU athletics makes sure that they are upholding the morals that have been around since the school’s founding in 1944.

It all begins with administration setting the ethos for its faculty; the faculty, specifically the athletic director, sets the ethos for his coaches and the coaches set it for their athletes.

The coaches are the ones who have direct communication with the athletes on a daily basis, and they create the ethos that is carried onto the court, the campus and the community. The ethos that they are creating is an expectation they have of their student athletes; it is an expectation that is to be upheld and leads to the student athlete being a representative of not only their sports program, but of their school.

Soccer is more than a game

The men’s soccer team’s success is attributed to the established culture that Coach Jaime expects each and every one of his players to follow. In order to get this specific drive out of them, he believes in creating a culture where they can get away from the field and have a space to talk and strengthen their relationships.

“If serving is beneath you, leading is beyond you.”

Jaime hopes that the players he recruits can walk out of this program being confident in themselves and realizing that their hard work pays off. He wants his players to be able to take that mindset into the workforce once they graduate.

Expanding beyond the game is important because it also shapes the identity of the individuals and reflects well on the positive influence this soccer program has had. Jaime attributes his personal input to the team culture to when he himself was a player at FPU. He reflects highly on the motto “all to play for”; this means that one should give all they have in that moment, to play for that game as a means of truly leaving it out on the field.

Ball and Life

The basketball teams here at FPU have a very unique culture that is nevertheless shared. “If serving is beneath you, leading is beyond you” is their motto, according to both Coach Haydock and Coach Beauregard.

With over 400 hours per athlete, it is evident that the basketball teams are serving first and foremost. While they are striving to chase their dreams of a winning program, they are helping others chase their own by helping the community. Coach Beauregard calls this “dream-chasing”, which is one of the biggest focuses for his women’s basketball team this season. The ability to dream-chase comes from the “relentless pursuit of excellence in the classroom, in our community and on the court”.

Both Beauregard and Haydock’s serve their athletes and in turn their athletes serve the community and the campus. In order to create a strong ethos, they make sure that their doors are always open and that they are there for their athletes, especially when they fail. They recognize that they are in these athletes’ lives, and their goal is to prepare these individuals for the rest of them once they leave FPU.

According to Coach Haydock: “The leading scorer and the 17th guy get the same investment from our coaching staff”. This shows that they value each individual.

The culture for basketball is that ball is life. It is, however, about more than that; it is about the lives of those around you as well.

Keeping them on track

Coach Ray Winter is the head track coach, and knows that the physical aspect isn’t the only aspect that matters.

“In a word, our motto this season is ‘mindset’” he said, explaining that “growth comes through discomfort. A principle that is true in athletics, but also in the social, intellectual and spiritual arenas of life.”

Coach Winter has created an ethos for his team by investing just as much in their student side as their athlete side.

It is about the lives of those around you.

“We have the privilege and calling of being ministry-oriented, so we seek to address the development and success of our student-athletes holistically,” Coach Winter said. This rings true with the ideals that have been set forth by FPU and its main office.

Passion for the game

While every season will not be the best, we can see that what remains constant is these coaches, who keep pushing their charges to be better athletes, students and members in the community; they do this, win or lose, and continue to do it day after day, season after season. It is the passion for the game and for their work that drives them.

In the words of Coach Beauregard, “passion is defined in this way, at least for me: it is the one thing that can exhaust you beyond all else, deplete you, take you down to just nothing but it is simultaneously the only thing that can fill you back up”

Coaches like Haydock also are not unaware of the fact that they have their dream job. He has wanted this job since he was eight years old, and chooses not to live in the past in favor of being present and energetic for his guys. The coaches get to do a job that they love, with students that they grow to love, in a school that is about showing God’s love to the community. This seems to be the source of where ethos is created, and year after year it will continue to grow. As Sunbirds, they will overcome the trials on and off the court because of the culture that has been created.