The University of Utah men’s lacrosse program released their 2019 spring schedule last Wednesday, and to say that the Utes will face tough competition in their inaugural NCAA season is a bit of an understatement.
With teams such as Duke, Virginia, Denver and UMass on the docket, the Utes will have their hands full in what looks to be an exciting season as the state’s first NCAA Division I program. The Utes will compete as an independent, as they have yet to join a conference due to the fact that they are the first team in the PAC-12 to adopt the sport at the men’s level.
“I’m very appreciative of all the coaches trying to work with us and fit us into their schedules,” said University of Utah head coach Brian Holman. “It’s a lot more complicated than I think people think. I’m excited as heck, and I’m really excited for our players to experience this.”
Holman continued, “I’m grateful for the coaches reaching out to us and really trying to make this work. They don’t have to play us. I think the coaches see the bigger picture in all this. I think their generosity was to help us get a schedule, but also help some other potential teams out there that are looking [to start an NCAA program]. If they can see that Utah can put together a schedule in year one, then that makes for another program to [give something] to look forward. That’s always been the question: what conference are you going to play in and who are you going to play? I think we answered one of those questions with the schedule we put together.”
Utah will open their season at home against Vermont in what will be the first official NCAA Division I game for the Utes. The game is rumored to being considered to being aired on ESPN to open the 2019 men’s college lacrosse season.
“I’m not sure about the whole ESPN thing. I know there are a lot of people behind the scenes to make that work,” said Holman. “If we can get it on television, that would be icing on the cake for both programs.”
Holman isn’t too concerned if the game will be on ESPN, however, as Holman and his squad will square-off against a former fellow coaching staff member at North Carolina in Chris Feifs. Holman and Feifs coached together for seven years before winning the national championship in 2016.
“[Chris] is one of my closest friends. He’s an outstanding coach. That will be the first game in the 2019 season for men’s lacrosse. There’s a lot of really cool things: the first game for our program, the first game of the 2019 season and playing against a guy that I love and respect so much.”
According to the University of Utah Athletics website, five of the teams on the Utah’s schedule were in the NCAA Tournament this past season. Duke made it to the championship game, but fell to Yale 13-11 in what was Yale’s first-ever championship as a member of the NCAA and second-ever lacrosse championship dating back to 1883.
“The difficulty is going to be to try to beat them. They’re some of the greatest programs in our sport. I have so much admiration for all of those programs. For me, it’s going to be a great challenge because I’m going to be going against some of the greatest coaches we have in our game.”
Holman continued, “The reason why we scheduled them is very simple. We want to be one of the best programs in college lacrosse. The only way you are going to achieve that status is to play those teams, and get knocked around and learn from them. We look at this the way we look at everything. Unless you are really pushing yourself and being challenged to the highest degree, you are never going to achieve it. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Coach Holman expressed hope that the lacrosse community in Utah can get out and support the team, and that the team can give the fans something to be excited about.
“I just really want the community to feel like we’re part of their family. We want to honor them in the way that they play. I hope they understand what we’re trying to accomplish here. We’re trying to be one of their most favorite programs in the state. We want every single person that can possibly make it for a game to get out there, and to experience the game at the highest level you can have besides the pros.”