At first glance, Tess Sutton may look like any ordinary student at the U. The 5-foot-3-inch senior from Bonsall, Calif., has spent the last four years in the Rocky Mountains. But under that calm exterior is an unbridled bundle of energy, and she makes sure to give all her effort in each outing for the Utah volleyball team.
“I’ve been playing volleyball ever since I was in eighth grade,” Sutton said. “I love how competitive it is. Being part of a team this competitive is really a lot of fun. I love all the girls on our team and they’ve made my experience here great.”
Choosing the cold Rocky Mountains over the warm beaches of California wasn’t an easy decision, but Sutton says that she has never looked back. Sutton says her team feels more like a family. It also doesn’t hurt that she happens to love Salt Lake City.
“My first year was definitely the hardest on me,” Sutton said. “It wasn’t easy to leave my family to come play here. But luckily, Salt Lake is a great city. When I got here I just fell in love with it. Besides getting a scholarship to come play here, I really just felt like this was the right atmosphere for me, because everyone is so close that it feels like a family.”
Head Coach Beth Launiere had some high praise for her short defensive specialist.
“Tess is one of those athletes who is a very high energy player — every team needs a player like her,” Launiere said. “She has been terrific for us late in matches when we need a boost, or in games when our younger players are struggling. She is really one of the best players we have.”
Sutton has a long list of career accomplishments, most of which were set last year when she was a junior. She started in 10 of 31 matches that she played in and she appeared in 114 out of 118 sets. She had a career high in digs last season against Oregon State when she registered 27 digs. Against the same team — the Beavers — she delivered seven assists. Against Gonzaga in 2015, Sutton notched three service aces as well. In total, she had 49 assists, 12 service aces and a team high 357 digs.
“I love digging.” Sutton said with a laugh. “It’s probably my favorite thing about playing volleyball. Every game I play, I go all out and play hard. My motor only has two speeds — fast and faster.”
Launiere agrees, noting that since she has seen Sutton advance through the program, her senior player has become a lot more disciplined without losing any of her trademark aggression.
“She has improved so much over the course of the last four years,” Launiere said. “When she first came here, she was so wild and energetic on the court. She still is, but she is much more disciplined now. She doesn’t make the mistakes that a younger player might make.”
Sutton’s play and development over the four years she has been with the Utah program is paying off. The execution by the entire team has parlayed itself to a no. 21 ranking at one point in the season. Sutton says the team has played well so far, but she isn’t satisfied yet with where they are at.
“I think we’ve done pretty well this season,” Sutton said. “There is always room for improvement of course, but we have all worked really hard to get where we are at. We are in a good spot and I think we can only improve.”