SALT LAKE CITY — As the Utah lacrosse team heads into its final game of the squad’s first season as an NCAA-sanctioned sport, head coach Brian Holman is impressed with how his team has fared.
“I think it’s been fantastic. … We didn’t count on this year being judged by wins and losses. From our criteria, how the guys adapted to learning how to prepare, I think we’ve done a great job of that. Learning how to compete at this level, it’s a big jump for everybody. The only Division I experienced guy we have on our team is Jimmy Perkins, as far as playing goes. All in all, I couldn’t be happier,” Holman said.
The Utes enter Saturday’s home matchup against Detroit Mercy (1 p.m., Judge Memorial High School) at 4-10, having lost seven straight. Utah has wins over Mercer, Air Force, Furman and Bellarmine. It’s better than expected from a team in its first NCAA-sanctioned season.
“Let’s face it, we competed in the majority of our games, right down to the end. We should have won a couple more, and we didn’t. I think it’s been nothing but a success and I’m just really proud of the guys,” Holman said.
Sophomore Josh Stout has emerged as Utah’s best player, leading the team in goals with 38, placing him at No. 18 in Division I lacrosse.
“Kind of a lot of ups and downs. Obviously, the first game wasn’t great, but I think we started out kind of high and the last couple of games, we’ve been figuring out we’ve been a little lower than we wanted to, so we’re just trying to end on a high note,” Stout said of Utah's season.
Heading into the season, Holman had some general questions about how his team would handle the transition. How would the Utes handle the increased workload? How would the team fare academically? How would the Utes compete against tough competition?
“Those are some of the markers from a coaching staff and my perspective, and we passed all of those with flying colors,” Holman said.
During the transition, Holman expressed his gratitude for the athletic department’s full support of the program.
“Again, I’m just so grateful with how the school has adopted us in a way. They’ve been nothing but supportive. The facilities people, and the marketing, and Brooke (Frederickson, Utah SID), and our academic support. Everybody, from Mark Harlan (Utah athletic director) all the way across the board,” Holman said. “We feel really, really good about the future of our program and really good about the future of lacrosse. … We’re almost filling up Judge’s stands. For a first year, I think that’s a good start for us, so I’m excited as heck.”
The team is currently playing their games at Judge Memorial High School, but the university is building a new soccer/lacrosse stadium on campus, a place that the team can “call home,” according to Holman.
The Utes played a lot of games on the East Coast, including trips to Duke and Virginia, which made for a lot of travel — but Holman and his players enjoyed the frequent trips across the country.
“I think the players might give you a different answer, but I really like it. There’s something about getting away with your team, and you spend a lot of time together. You really get to see their personalities and you can sit down and have a lot of good one-on-one talks. It’s not easy, but we know that going in, and it’s just part of what our culture is going to be like,” Holman said.91 comments on this story
“It’s been a lot of wear and tear on us, but it’s fun. It’s super cool getting to go to all those places and travel to the East Coast. I have some family up in Connecticut so they got to come to some of my games, which was super cool seeing them,” freshman Sam Cambere added.
Now that their first NCAA season is nearly done, Holman is looking to make the next step.
“It’s starting to climb the ranks. I don’t pay much attention to rankings, but our goal this year was maybe to be looked at as a top 50 team. I think if we win tomorrow, that might be the case. Our next year, in my mind, would be to double that. It would be going into the top 25 rankings, and then in the third year, cracking that top 20,” Holman said.